Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


A Profile of Minnesota's Swing and Stronghold State Senate Districts

Bookmark and Share

During the past three days Smart Politics has issued reports analyzing party strength in the state's 134 House districts - including analyses on the state's 40 swing districts, the 94 DFL and GOP stronghold districts, and the barriers the Republican Party faces as it begins to rebuild and attempt to close the DFL's 40-seat advantage in the lower chamber.

Today, in Smart Politics' fourth report, attention is turned to the Minnesota Senate - the battle for control of which has been notoriously noncompetitive ever since partisan legislative elections were established in the Gopher State in 1974.

The DFL has maintained continuous control of the upper chamber in St. Paul throughout these 35 years, winning nearly two-thirds (63.5 percent) of the 706 general and special election contests conducted during this span (448 seats). Republicans have won just 36.1 percent of these contests (255 seats), with third parties winning the remaining 3 seats (0.4 percent).

Since new district maps were implemented in 2002, the DFL has won 86 of 143 general and special election races (60.1 percent), with Republicans winning 56 contests, and 1 seat going to an Independence Party candidate.

Prospects for substantial GOP Senate gains in 2010 are bleak, given the historical dominance of the DFL in Senate races for the past few generations as well as the decided momentum the DFL enjoyed coming out of the 2006 election.

For example, the DFL improved its standing in an astounding 55 of the state's 67 Senate districts from the 2002 to 2006 general election cycles - either increasing its margin of victory or decreasing its margin of loss in 82 percent of the state's senate districts. The DFL improved its standing by double-digit margins in 35 of these districts.

Meanwhile, Republicans gained ground in 2006 in just 12 districts, notching two notable pickups (District 11 in Alexandria and District 13 in Willmar), but only cutting into the DFL margin of victory from 2002 in just five other districts: District 08 in Cloquet (Tony Lourey, an 8.8-point gain), District 22 in Worthington (Jim Vickerman, 8.1 points), District 47 in Coon Rapids (Leo Foley, 4.6 points), District 06 in Duluth (Thomas Bakk, 1.9 points), and District 65 in St. Paul (Sandra Pappas, 37.2 points). (Note: Pappas ran unchallenged in 2002).

Still, 2010 presents new opportunities for the GOP, with the changing national political environment and the very real possibility that DFL Senators have reached their peak in support among the electorate statewide.

For example, in 2006, DFL candidates for Senate won 55.3 percent of the vote statewide - their best mark since 1992 (55.6 percent), and a 5.6-point improvement from 2002 (49.7 percent). GOP Senate candidates earned only 43.3 percent of the vote statewide in 2006, their worst showing since 1992 (43.2 percent), and down 2.8 points from 2002 (46.1 percent).

To be sure, there will be opportunities for pickups on both sides of the aisle in 2010. Fourteen Senate seats have been held by by both the Republicans and the DFL since 2002, although the DFL currently controls 12 of them. (A fifteenth seat, District 30 in Rochester, has been held by the Independence and DFL parties).

These 15 seats have combined for a total of 23 competitive races in general and special election matchups since 2002 - elections decided by less than 10 points. If DFLer Tarryl Clark should receive her party's nomination for the 6th U.S Congressional District race, Republicans will certainly target her 15th District seat in St. Cloud. (The GOP won District 15 by 1.7 points in 2002).

Republicans will also eye the seats held by Dan Skogen in District 10 (Fergus Falls), John Doll in District 40 (Bloomington), and (potential 3rd CD candidate) Terri Bonoff in District 43 (Plymouth) - all districts the GOP won by double-digit margins back in 2002.

Minnesota Senate Districts That Have Changed Party Control, 2002-2008

District
Area
State Senator
Party
Comp. Races
04
Bemidji
Mary Olson
DFL
2
10
Fergus Falls
Dan Skogen
DFL
0
11
Alexandria
Bill Ingebrigsten
GOP
2
13
Willmar
Joe Gimse
GOP
2
15
St. Cloud
Tarryl Clark
DFL
1
16
Big Lake
Lisa Fobbe
DFL
1
17
North Branch
Rick Olseen
DFL
2
25
Northfield
Kevin Dahle
DFL
2
30*
Rochester
Ann Lynch
DFL
1
31
Winona
Sharon E. Ropes
DFL
1
38
Eagan
Jim Carlson
DFL
2
40
Bloomington
John Doll
DFL
1
43
Plymouth
Terri Bonoff
DFL
2
56
Woodbury
Kathy Saltzman
DFL
2
53
White Bear Lake
Sandy Rummel
DFL
2
* Won by the Independence Party in 2002. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

In addition to these 15 'swing districts,' another 14 Senate districts that have not changed party control have hosted at least one competitive contest since 2002. Eight of these districts are currently held by Republicans, and seven by the DFL.

Five of these districts have yielded competitive races in both the 2002 and 2006 general elections and are definitely districts to watch in 2010: District 28 in Red Wing (represented by DFLer Steve Murphy), District 47 in Coon Rapids (DFLer Leo Foley), District 48 in Ramsey (GOPer Mike Jungbauer), District 51 in Blaine (DFLer Don Betzold), and District 52 in Forest Lake (GOPer Ray Vandeveer).

Competitive Minnesota Senate Districts That Have Not Changed Party Control, 2002-2008

District
Area
State Senator
Party
Comp. Races
12
Brainerd
Paul Koering
GOP
1
23
Mankato
Kahty Sheran
DFL
1
24
Fairmont
Julie Rosen
GOP
1
26
Owatonna
Dick Day
GOP
1
27
Austin
Dan Sparks
DFL
1
28
Red Wing
Steve Murphy
DFL
2
37
Apple Valley
Chris Gerlach
GOP
1
42
Eden Prairie
David Hann
GOP
1
47
Coon Rapids
Leo Foley
DFL
2
48
Ramsey
Mike Jungbauer
GOP
2
49
Coon Rapids
Debbie Johnson
GOP
1
51
Blaine
Don Betzold
DFL
2
52
Forest Lake
Ray Vandeveer
GOP
2
57
Cottage Grove
Katie Sieben
DFL
1
Data compiled by Smart Politics.

There are, of course, many districts in which one party or the other has dominated recent electoral contests. The DFL has gone undefeated in 33 Senate districts since redistricting, with 8 of the top 10 of these 'stronghold districts' located in Minneapolis or St. Paul. Six-term Senator Sandra Pappas of St. Paul (District 65) enjoys the largest average margin of victory at 77.6 points since 2002. (The GOP failed to field a candidate against Pappas in 2002).

The two non-metro districts cracking the Top 10 DFL stronghold list are District 01 in Thief River Falls at #4 (represented by Leroy Stumpf, 62.1 points) and District 05 in Hibbing at #6 (David Tomassoni, 54.9 points).

Undefeated DFL Minnesota Senate Districts by Average Margin of Victory, 2002-2008

Rank
District
Area
State Senator
MoV
1
65*
St. Paul
Sandra Pappas
77.6
2
61
Minneapolis
Linda Berglin
68.4
3
60
Minneapolis
Scott Dibble
62.4
4
01**
Thief River Falls
Leroy Stumpf
62.1
5
59
Minneapolis
Larry Pogemiller
55.1
6
05
Hibbing
David Tomassoni
54.9
7
62
Minneapolis
Patricia Torres Ray
52.8
8
58
Minneapolis
Linda Higgins
52.5
9
66
St. Paul
Ellen Anderson
50.8
10
64
St. Paul
Richard Cohen
48.5
11
06
Duluth
Thomas Bakk
43.9
12
07
Duluth
Yvonne P. Solon
38.7
13
09
Moorhead
Keith Langseth
33.9
14
20
Montevideo
Gary Kubly
30.8
15
44
St. Louis Park
Ron Latz
30.2
16
63
Richfield
Ken Kelash
29.0
17
55
Maplewood
Charles Wiger
27.5
18
46
Brooklyn Park
Linda Scheid
27.0
19
67
St. Paul
Mee Moua
26.8
20
03
Grand Rapids
Tom Saxhaug
25.2
21
45
Crystal
Ann Rest
24.0
22
39
Inver Grove Heights
James Metzen
22.2
23
22
Worthington
Jim Vickerman
20.1
24
08
Cloquet
Tony Lourey
19.6
25
57
Cottage Grove
Katie Sieben
19.2
26
54
Roseville
John Marty
19.0
27
50
New Brighton
Satveer Chaudhary
18.8
27
02
Park Rapids
Rod Skoe
18.8
29
27
Austin
Dan Sparks
17.8
30
23
Mankato
Kahty Sheran
9.0
31
51
Blaine
Don Betzold
7.5
32
28
Red Wing
Steve Murphy
6.9
33
47
Coon Rapids
Leo Foley
3.7
* No opposition in 2002. ** No opposition in 2006. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

Republicans, meanwhile, are undefeated in 19 districts since 2002, with 4-term Senator Claire Robling of District 35 (Shakopee) claiming the largest average margin of victory at 66.0 points. (The DFL did not field a candidate against Robling in 2006).

Rounding out the Top 5 most dominant GOP Senate districts since 2002 are District 21 in New Ulm (Dennis Frederckson, 62.5 points), District 18 in Hutchinson (Steve Dille, 32.0 points), District 33 in Plymouth (Gen Olson, 26.5 points), and District 29 in Rochester (Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, 25.1 points).

Undefeated Republican Minnesota Senate Districts by Average Margin of Victory, 2002-2008

Rank
District
Area
State Senator
MoV
1
35**
Shakopee
Claire Robling
66.0
2
21*
New Ulm
Dennis Frederickson
62.5
3
18
Hutchinson
Steve Dille
32.0
4
33
Plymouth
Gen Olson
26.5
5
29
Rochester
Dave Senjem
25.1
6
41
Edina
Geoff Michel
24.7
7
34
Chanhassen
Julianne Ortman
24.3
8
32
Maple Grove
Warren Limmer
23.0
9
36
Lakeville
Pat Pariseau
22.9
10
19
Buffalo
Amy Koch
22.3
11
37
Apple Valley
Chris Gerlach
18.4
12
26
Owatonna
Dick Day
16.4
13
14
Sauk Rapids
Michelle Fischbach
15.0
14
49
Coon Rapids
Debbie Johnson
14.0
15
24
Fairmont
Julie Rosen
13.9
16
42
Eden Prairie
David Hann
11.4
17
52
Forest Lake
Ray Vandeveer
6.7
18
12
Brainerd
Paul Koering
6.2
19
48
Ramsey
Mike Jungbauer
5.7
* No opposition in 2002. ** No opposition in 2006. Data compiled by Smart Politics.

Two DFL and two Republican Senators are currently seeking the governor's mansion in 2010. DFLer Tom Bakk represents the 11th most dominant DFL district (District 06, in Duluth) while colleague John Marty represents the district with the 26th highest average margin of victory for the DFL in senate contests (District 54 in Roseville).

On the Republican side, David Hann represents the 16th strongest GOP district (District 42, in Eden Prairie), while Mike Jungbauer represents the very competitive 48th District in Ramsey (ranked #19 with only a 5.7-point average GOP margin of victory since 2002).

Additional opportunities for competitive districts may arise, of course, in the event of retirements or incumbents failing to win their party's nomination or primary.

Follow Smart Politics on Twitter.

Previous post: How Many Minnesota House 'Swing Districts' Will Return to the GOP in 2010?
Next post: Klobuchar's Approval Rebounds While Senators Grassley, Harkin, Kohl, and Feingold's Sink to Historic Lows

1 Comment


  • Thank you for the very informative post.

  • Leave a comment


    Remains of the Data

    Gender Equality in the US House: A State-by State Quarter-Century Report Card (1989-2014)

    A study of 5,325 congressional elections finds the number of female U.S. Representatives has more than tripled over the last 25 years, but the rate at which women are elected to the chamber still varies greatly between the states.

    Political Crumbs

    Small Club in St. Paul

    Mark Dayton is one of just three Minnesotans ever elected to three different statewide offices. Dayton, of course, had previously served as State Auditor (1991-1995) and U.S. Senator (2001-2007) before winning the governorship in 2010. At that time, he joined Republicans Edward Thye and J.A.A. Burnquist on this very short list. Burnquist was elected lieutenant governor in 1914 but then became governor after the death of Democrat Winfield Hammond in 1915. He then won the gubernatorial elections of 1916 and 1918 and eight terms as attorney general two decades later (1939-1955). Thye was similarly first elected lieutenant governor of the Gopher State and became governor after the resignation of fellow GOPer Harold Stasson in 1943. Thye won one additional full term as governor in 1944 and then two terms to the U.S. Senate (1947-1959). Twenty Minnesotans have been elected to two different statewide offices.


    Respect Your Elders?

    With retirement announcements this year by veteran U.S. Representatives such as 30-term Democrat John Dingell of Michigan, 20-term Democrat George Miller of California, and 18-term Republican Tom Petri of Wisconsin, it is no surprise that retirees from the 113th Congress are one of the most experienced cohorts in recent decades. Overall, these 24 exiting members of the House have served an average of 11.0 terms - the second longest tenure among retirees across the last 18 cycles since 1980. Only the U.S. Representatives retiring in 2006 had more experience, averaging 11.9 terms. (In that cycle, 10 of the 11 retiring members served at least 10 terms, with GOPer Bill Jenkins of Tennessee the lone exception at just five). Even without the aforementioned Dingell, the average length of service in the chamber of the remaining 23 retirees in 2014 is 10.2 terms - which would still be the third highest since 1980 behind the 2006 and 2012 (10.5 terms) cycles.


    more POLITICAL CRUMBS

    Humphrey School Sites
    CSPG
    Humphrey New Media Hub

    Issues />

<div id=
    Abortion
    Afghanistan
    Budget and taxes
    Campaign finances
    Crime and punishment
    Economy and jobs
    Education
    Energy
    Environment
    Foreign affairs
    Gender
    Health
    Housing
    Ideology
    Immigration
    Iraq
    Media
    Military
    Partisanship
    Race and ethnicity
    Reapportionment
    Redistricting
    Religion
    Sexuality
    Sports
    Terrorism
    Third parties
    Transportation
    Voting