Minnesota is one of the few states in the Midwest where the Democrats have a large bench. Large may be selling it short. Republicans have not held a statewide office in Minnesota since Mark Dayton took office in January of 2011. Democrats hold a 5-4 majority in congressional seats in Minnesota. The last time the GOP held a majority of U.S. House seats in Minnesota was 1983. They only held a majority for the 1981-1983 term. Before that was 1973. The last time the GOP held both Minnesota Senate seats was 1991. The Democrats have had both Senate Seats since Franken took office in 2009 after a long recount and court battle.
The deep bench of the Minnesota DFL (This is what Minnesota Democrats have called themselves since 1944 when the Democratic and the Farmer Labor party merged) is evident when you look at the number of prominent DFL'rs that have entered the race. There have also been a few high profile passes: Former DNC Vice Chair and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, sitting Senior Senator Amy Klobuchar and sitting Lt. Governor Tina Smith .
Here is a list of the declared DFL candidates:
- Chris Coleman, Mayor of St. Paul (2006-present, term ends January 2018)
- Erin Murphy, State Representative from St. Paul, Former State House Majority Leader (2013-15)
- Rebecca Otto, three term State Auditor (2007-present), former State Representative (2003-5)
- Tina Liebling, State Representative from Rochester (2005-present)
- Tim Walz, MN-01 Congressman (2007-present)
- Christopher Chamberlin, activist, is running to "drain the swamp"
- Blake Huffman, Ramsey County Comissioner
Here is a list of potential DFL candidates:
- Rick Nolan, MN-08 Congressman (2013-present), former State House Representative (1969-72) & former MN-06 Congressman (1975-1981)
- Lori Swanson, three term State Attorney General (2007-present), former state Deputy Attorney General and State Solicitor General
- Tom Bakk, From Cook, Minnesota, Current State Senate Minority Leader (2011-12, 17) Former State Senate Majority Leader (2013-17), State Senator (2003-present), State Representative (1995-2003)
- Paul Thissen, State Representative from Minneapolis, former State House Speaker (2013-15) & former State House Minority Leader (2011-13,15-17)
- Jeff Johnson, current Hennepin County Commissioner, former State Representative (2003-2007), he has run and lost two state-wide races: 2014 Governor (lost to Dayton 50.07%-44.51%) and 2006 Attorney General (lost to Swanson 53.24%-40.72%)
- Kurt Daudt, Current State House Speaker (2015-present), former State House Minority Leader (2013-2015). member of State House from Isanti County (2011-present)
- Rich Stanek, current Hennepin County Sheriff (2007-present), former State House member (1995-2003), former Commissioner of Public Safety (2003-04), current Vice President of the National Sheriff's Association
- Erik Paulsen, current MN-03 Congressman (2009-present), former State House member (1995-2009), former State House Majority Leader (2003-2007)
- Amy Koch, former State Senator (2006-2013), former State Senate Majority Leader (2011, only served 11 months until resigning for "engaging in a relationship with a Senate Staffer)
- Keith Downey, current Minnesota Republican Party Chair (2013-present), former member of the State House (2009-13)
- Mike McFadden, co-CEO of a Minneapolis-based investment bank, 2014 candidate for Senator (lost to Franken 53.15%-42.91%)
- Tom Emmer, current MN-06 Congressman, former member of the State House (2005-11), 2010 candidate for Governor (lost to Dayton 43.63%-43.21%)
- Sarah Anderson, Member of State House from Plymouth (2007-present)
- Michelle Benson, Member of State Senate from Ham Lake (2007-present)
- David Osmek, member of the State House from Mound (2013-present)
- Matt Dean, current member of State House (2007-present), former State House Majority Leader (2011-13)
As I said before, most of these Republicans are very unlikely to run. The state GOP needs to recruit a likely sacrificial lamb to run against Klobuchar in 2014. They also need to field candidates for open races in MN-01 & the State Auditor's race. They have statewide races for Attorney General and the Secretary of State (the state-wide race with the closest margin in 2014) as well as trying to make pick-ups in MN-07 & MN-08. If someone like Erik Paulsen decides to jump in, look for most of the lower profile Republicans to start announcing for those other races.
One Democrat who is likely to stay put is Attorney General Lori Swanson. She may be more likely to make a run for Senate in the future should Franken or Klobuchar make a run for the White House. At the age of 50, she certainly could just wait to run for Governor in 2022 or 2026 as well. She has been able to stay above the political bickering to this point, so she may be looking to maintain that until she has a clearer path.
Former State House member from Golden Valley, Ryan Winkler (2007-15), announced his intentions to run for Attorney General. He mad it clear in his announcement that his run was conditional on Lori Swanson not seeking a fourth term. He spoke highly of her and said he would not run to challenge her. He began sending out emails to state DFL voters after the 2016 cycle about once a month. He has yet to move those emails from the general "advocacy of issues and current events" emails to any sort of campaign event and explicit pleas for contributions. His emails don't sound like a candidate that thinks he will be running.
I will be writing more on the Gubernatorial race in Minnesota in the coming days, weeks and months so stay tuned. Any news/campaign/polling tips or suggestions can be sent to email@example.com