All of MinnPost’s coverage of the 2022 election can be found in one, convenient location, our 2022 Election Central page. That’s where in-depth coverage of the state and federal campaigns, campaign finance, polling and top issues such as abortion and public safety can be found.
On Tuesday, Minnesota voters will complete the work of the 2022 election in polling places around the state. In a return to pre-pandemic voting patterns, more of the vote — likely about 75 percent — will be in person on Election Day, rather than by mail or at early voting sites.
As of Thursday, local elections offices had sent out 649,329 absentee ballots. At one week before the 2018 election, 581,971 ballots had been transmitted. But during the first pandemic election when 58 percent of the eventual vote was cast early or by mail, 1,969,728 ballots had been sent out.
As of Friday, there are 3,562,262 registered voters in the state. Minnesota allows same-day registration by presenting an approved identification at a polling place.
Here is a last look at what’s on the ballot — and what’s at stake — in Minnesota.
The race for governor is both top-of-ticket and top-of-mind for many voters. Incumbent DFL Gov. Tim Walz is trying to win a second term and give his party 16-straight years in that office. The last time a Republican won the job was in 2006.
Trying to snap that streak is Scott Jensen, the one-term state senator and family physician from Chaska who survived a multi-candidate GOP endorsement battle in May.
Their running mates are incumbent Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and former Minnesota Vikings player Matt Birk.
Both campaigns sought opportunities to be on the offensive, something a bit easier for a challenger following four years marked by the pandemic, a recession and civil unrest. Jensen attacked Walz for his handling of the COVID-19-induced state of emergency and for the increase in crime following the murder of George Floyd. Inflation has also been a common theme for Jensen.
Walz, in turn, has criticized Jensen’s anti-abortion position, a position that changed somewhat following the June overturning of Roe v. Wade by the U.S Supreme Court. He has also tried to portray Jensen as a pandemic denier outside the mainstream of medical understanding of the virus.
Walz has held narrow-to-comfortable leads in most independent polling, though his party is struggling on issues such as crime and inflation.
Polling shows the attorney general’s race is likely the best shot for Republicans to win a statewide race in Minnesota for the first time since 2006. The GOP candidate is Jim Schultz, a private practice business attorney who most recently worked for the hedge fund Värde Partners and has run on a pledge to dramatically reshape the office so the AG can prosecute more criminal cases.
Incumbent DFLer Keith Ellison has criticized the plan, saying Schultz would not be able to take all the steps to combat crime that he has promised. And while Ellison says he’s taking crime seriously, he has closed the election by focusing on his consumer protection lawsuits, bringing settlement money home after cases against big industries like opioid makers and distributors.
Ellison — who gained national attention for prosecuting former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd — has also said he would defend abortion access in Minnesota and painted Schultz as a defender of large corporations.
A MinnPost/Embold Research poll from early in October found many voters who were undecided on the AG race leaned toward the DFL in other statewide elections. A later poll by KSTP/SurveyUSA showed Schultz leads in the race with 9% undecided. That means Ellison could have favorable voters left to win over, but it also means he has struggled to bring home some people who are siding with Walz.
After campaigning earlier in the fall with progressives like U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar and Cori Bush, Ellison has pivoted to highlighting support from politicians in the more centrist wing of the party. His final ad is narrated by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and he has highlighted endorsements from some county attorneys throughout Minnesota.
Schultz, meanwhile, has won wide support from sheriffs and police organizations and has sharply criticized Ellison for supporting a Minneapolis charter amendment to replace the police department with a public safety agency. He has steered clear of other GOP campaigns, especially that of Jensen.
Should he win, Schultz would be the first Republican attorney general candidate to do so since 1966.
Secretary of State and Auditor
All the proof necessary to show that 2022 is not a normal election comes from noting that two of the hottest elections in Minnesota are for offices that usually are afterthoughts: secretary of state and auditor. And in the case of the race for secretary of state, an often sleepy race is getting national attention and money.
Secretary of State Steve Simon was first elected in a close election in 2014 and reelected more easily four years ago. But after the 2020 election when then-President Donald Trump raised still-unproven allegations about problems with vote counting, offices that run elections have gotten more attention.
GOP nominee Kim Crockett was among those who questioned the 2020 election results and has based her campaign on criticisms of Minnesota election law and Simon’s overseeing of elections. Crockett would seek to change the state’s early voting and vote-by-mail systems.
This campaign has been a stark contrast between Simon defending the state’s protections and bragging about top-in-the-nation turnout and Crockett raising suspicions about both. While the secretary of state is considered the state’s top elections officer, elections in Minnesota are operated by local officials who oversee the counting of votes.
Meanwhile, Auditor Julie Blaha is seeking a second term but has faced a rigorous challenge from GOP nominee Ryan Wilson. Blaha is a former school teacher and union official from Nowthen; Wilson is an attorney and business owner who grew up in Rochester, Brooklyn Park and Plymouth.
The auditor is a constitutional office that also serves on committees such as the executive committee, the investment board and pensions. Since 1973, the auditing duties have been split between the state auditor and the Office of the Legislative Auditor, with the elected auditor primarily focused on fiscal auditing of local governments and the legislative auditor responsible for state programs. The OLA has been given additional authority to conduct special audits and performance audits as directed by a legislative commission.
The fundamental disagreement between Blaha and Wilson is over what the auditor is empowered to do. Blaha says the duties are described in state law and is limited; Wilson thinks Blaha could have used the office to have called out fraud such as the Feeding Our Future pandemic feeding program and the Southwest Light Rail Transit project.
The DFL took advantage of midterm backlash against Donald Trump in 2018 to win a majority in the Minnesota House, leading to four years of a divided Legislature. This year, will Republicans ride frustration with President Joe Biden to retake the House and keep its Senate majority?
That’s the question voters will answer Tuesday in the first test of new legislative maps drawn by courts following the 2020 Census.
Both parties and their allies have spent heavily in battleground races across the Twin Cities suburbs like Coon Rapids, Burnsville, Anoka and Vadnais Heights — along with parts of Greater Minnesota like St. Cloud and a swath of northern Minnesota including Hermantown, the Iron Range and the North Shore.
Whoever wins will decide how to use a massive $12 billion surplus over the next two and a half years after lawmakers failed to spend most of it earlier this year and couldn’t pass a $3.88 billion tax bill they agreed to that would have eliminated the state tax on Social Security benefits and offered other tax cuts and credits.
Republicans have focused their campaigns on crime and inflation, promising to take a harder line on sentencing and return a greater share of the surplus to state residents. Democrats have supported tax cuts, too, but also greater spending on K-12 education and other priorities like child care. But the DFL has campaigned largely on abortion, arguing Republicans with a long history of opposition to the procedure will try to restrict abortion or advance a constitutional amendment to ban the procedure altogether. Top GOP officials have promised they won’t fight constitutional protections for abortion access, though Republican majorities have in the past supported limits.
If Walz is reelected, Republicans would have to negotiate with the DFL, even if they win the House and Senate. That’s a strong possibility. Walz has held a lead in polls throughout the race. And the GOP has not had a “trifecta” in state government in the era since legislative positions became officially partisan in the 1970s.
Control of Congress is at stake in Tuesday’s midterm elections, along with President Joe Biden’s agenda for the two years remaining in his term.
If the Republicans win control of the U.S. House, which is considered a likelihood, it will be very difficult for Biden to have any legislative accomplishments. And the GOP has a chance of also taking over the U.S. Senate, increasing the chances for gridlock.
A flip of the House and/or Senate would thrust Minnesota’s Democratic lawmakers into the minority, a position some have never had before, and raise the profile of Minnesota’s Republican members. Although they won’t be able to pass legislation because of the Senate filibuster, Republicans will be able to hold hearings on key issues and help propel a flood of probes into the Biden administration.
But much depends on the size of the expected Republican “wave.” If it’s strong enough, it could sweep Rep. Angie Craig, one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the nation, out of office. A strong showing by the GOP would also help Rep. Tom Emmer, R-6th District, now head of the National Republican Campaign Committee, win a party leadership position, that of majority whip, in the next Congress.
The midterm also will start setting the scene for the 2024 presidential election, with some analysts saying that a loss of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate could be a boon for Democrats. Why? Because voters would expect the GOP, the party in power in Congress, to fix the problems they say Democrats have caused, like inflation, and keep other campaign promises that may be difficult to keep, especially with the filibuster and Biden’s veto pen.
Hennepin County Attorney
The races for two countywide seats have attracted more interest than in previous years, becoming the focus of the debate between law and order and police reform more than two years after the murder of George Floyd.
There’s an open seat for Hennepin County attorney, and Mary Moriarty and Martha Holton Dimick were the top finishers in the August primary. Moriarty is a former Hennepin County public defender for 31 years and chief of the office for six years, and Dimick is a former Fourth Judicial District judge and Hennepin County prosecutor.
Moriarty — the DFL-endorsed candidate — came out on top in the August primary amid a field of seven, garnering 36% of the vote. Dimick came in second with 18%.
Hennepin County Sheriff candidates Dawanna Witt and Joseph Banks are vying to replace Sheriff David Hutchinson, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drunken driving last year and is serving out the remainder of his first term on medical leave.
Witt, a major in the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office currently, dominated the August primary with 57% of the vote, beating out Banks, a bail agent and former chief of three southern Minnesota police agencies, who came in second.
Callaghan covers the state government for MinnPost. Follow him on Twitter or email him at pcallaghan(at)minnpost(dot)com.
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