Samuel Richie

2016 Election Preview

The 2016 campaign season has been one of the most tumultuous in modern history, and as the day of decision approaches, the races are overheating with no improvement in the overall tone. The Democratic and Republican presidential nominees are the two most unpopular candidates in memory, and the result has been an ugly, negative, attack-based and largely policy-absent campaign from both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. How each presidential candidate impacts down-ticket races is the question political observers are currently tasked with, and the answer remains very much up in the air as the campaigns reach the home stretch.

While the presidential race may garner the majority of the headlines, it is far from the only important race in 2016. In Minnesota, the entire state legislature, all 201 Representatives and Senators are up for election, as are all 8 of the state’s Congressional seats.

Minnesota State Races

All members of the Minnesota House and the Minnesota Senate are on the ballot this November. The state failed to pass a bonding bill or a tax bill last year, so voters can expect to hear plenty about that from both parties this fall. With dozens of retirements and a handful of primary losses, there will be a number of new faces when the Legislature convenes on January 3rd.

Heading into the election the DFL boasts an 11-seat advantage in the Senate (39-28), while the Republicans enjoy a 12-seat majority in the House (73-61). These are fairly comfortable majorities in each body, but a sweeping presidential win from either candidate could be enough to swing control of the House or Senate if strong turnout creates a coattail effect. The Minnesota House has alternated control between Republicans and Democrats in each of the last 4 election cycles, while the state Senate has been more reliably in Democratic control in recent years.

The conventional wisdom has been that Trump’s brash style is likely to hurt Republican candidates in the metro-area and the suburbs while this style, and his economic message, could have a positive impact in rural areas, including on the Iron Range. If Donald Trump’s message does not resonate with Minnesota voters, state Republican officials will be hoping their party base will split their tickets to help Republicans win state legislative races.

Congressional Races

Neither of Minnesota’s Senators is up for reelection this year, but all of the state’s Congressional seats are on the ballot, as they are every 2 years. Of the state’s 8 races, a couple have been attracting national attention and out of state money for different reasons.

District 2 has been on everyone’s radar since incumbent Republican John Kline announced he would not seek reelection. The matchup is between Republican-endorsed former radio talk show host Jason Lewis and Democrat-endorsed former St. Jude Medical executive Angie Craig. The race has garnered a great deal of national coverage due to some of Jason Lewis’s previous provocative statements and the fact that outside money has been flowing into the race for months. Republicans have held the seat since 2003, but outgoing Representative Kline was a more moderate voice than Republican nominee Lewis. Angie Craig certainly has a chance at flipping District 2 to the Democrats.

The second race attracting outside attention is the rematch in District 8 between Democratic Representative Rick Nolan and his Republican-backed challenger Stewart Mills. Stewart Mills is a Republican slightly in the Donald Trump mold, a wealthy businessman looking to make a leap into the world of politics. Mills is looking to tap into Trump’s economic message and hope it resonates with working class voters in District 8. This race will be closely watched by both parties as a potential bellwether for the nation.

Presidential Race

The top-of-the-ticket, the Presidential race could not present a more dramatic contrast in style or policy positions. So much had been written and said about each of the candidates before either began running for President that a good portion of the electorate had already formed an opinion of them long before the race began. As such, this campaign has been less of an introduction to who the candidates are and what they believe so much as it has been an exercise in denigrating and demeaning the other side to the fullest extent possible.

Hillary Clinton argues that Donald Trump is woefully unprepared and temperamentally unfit for the office of the Presidency. Donald Trump alleges that Hillary Clinton is too frail and corrupt to serve as Commander and Chief. It remains to be seen which argument will carry the day nationally, but given that Minnesota has voted for the Democratic nominee for President every year since 1976, and every statewide elected official is currently a Democrat, it would be quite surprising to see Donald Trump win Minnesota in November. That being said, it has already been a very surprising campaign in which the traditional rules have clearly not applied.

Election Day is November 8.


Sam Richie is an attorney with Fryberger, Buchanan, Smith & Frederick, P.A., practicing in the area of Government Relations. This article is not intended to provide legal advice. You should always consult with an attorney about your specific circumstances.