The bottom of the ticket

MPR has been taking a look at some of the state legislative races coming up this year. MPR Capitol Bureau Chief Laura McCallum and I examined the races, talked to officials with both parties and prepared this list. The list doesn’t mean every seat is in play or that those considered vulnerable will lose. Some of the races are swing districts, some incumbents are vulnerable and some just have interesting stories. Take a look and give us your perspective. You can also check out Minntelect and Pollytick for more analysis on the legislative races. We don’t know who writes those blogs so take that into consideration (pollytick sent us a note saying they prefer to remain anonymous when we asked them their identity).

Senate races

District 4 –

Dems are targeting GOP incumbent Cari Ruud of Breezy Point

DFL challenger Mary Olson – attorney, former Air Force attorney

Ruud worked with DFLer John Marty on ATV issues, which may not play well in the district.

District 8 –

OPEN SEAT (DFL Sen. Becky Lourey running for governor)/PRIMARY RACE

Not sure whether this is really in play, but former GOP Senator Dan Stevens is making another run for the Legislature – Two Dems in the race, Lourey’s son Tony – DFL-endorsed – and lawyer Tom Skare

District 11 –

GOPs are targeting DFL incumbent Dallas Sams

GOP challenger is Bill Ingebrigtsen, Douglas County sheriff. He’s making that case that he’s more accessible, since he lives in the heart of the district. Sams lives on the edge of the district after redistricting. Sams is also being targeted by groups pushing for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Sams voted against a motion to bring the bill to the floor.

District 12 –


GOP incumbent Paul Koering of Brainerd faces primary challenge from Kevin Goedker. Koering may be vulnerable because he’s openly gay in a conservative part of state. He received plenty of support from some of his GOP colleagues in the Senate when there was an endorsement battle. DFLer is Crow Wing County Commissioner Terry Sluss

District 13 –


DFL incumbent Dean Johnson of Willmar faces primary challenge from Michael Cruze

GOP challenger is Joe Gimse, who challenged Johnson before. Johnson is the top target of groups opposed to gay marriage.

District 15 –

DFL incumbent Tarryl Clark

GOP challenger Jeff Johnson’s web site says “easy to remember, hard to forget. He’s a college professor. The district leans GOP.

District 23 –

OPEN SEAT (DFL Senator John Hottinger retiring)

Mankato/St. Peter area

This is a fascinating district because the Senator and both reps are retiring.

GOP Mark Piepho (ran against Hottinger before, filed lawsuit over Hottinger’s residency)

DFL Kathy Sheran – nurse, former Mankato city council member, dad was former chief justice Bob Sheran

District 27 –

DFL incumbent Dan Sparks barely won in 2002 (recount), GOP challenger is George Marin, a Latino minister.

District 30 –

OPEN SEAT (DFL Senator Sheila Kiscaden retiring) Rochester

DFL Ann Lynch – Rochester school board member

GOP Scott Wright – Mayo cardiologist, can self-finance

Dems admit this is a tough district for them

District 31 –

OPEN SEAT – Winona area

(GOP Senator Bob Kierlin retiring)

GOP Brenda Johnson – Vice Mayor of Chatfield, economics prof at Rochester Community and Technical College

DFL Sharon Ropes – nurse, former school board member, narrowly lost to Kierlin in 2002

District 41 –

GOP incumbent Geoff Michel of Edina

DFL challenger Andrew Borene – former Marine, served in Iraq.

Michel has a big target on his back. The district voted for John Kerry in 2004, but the GOP say that was anti-Bush sentiment and Michel fits district.

Green Party candidate Julie Risser

District 43 –

REMATCH of special election –

DFL incumbent Terri Bonoff faces GOP challenger Judy Johnson. Republicans think the Bonoff victory was a fluke and the western suburbs are GOP country.

District 44 –

OPEN SEAT (DFLer Steve Kelley is running for AG)in St. Louis Park/Hopkins area

DFL Rep. Ron Latz is odds-on favorite

There are two GOP candidates. Dave Carlson and Darrell Brown.

District 47 –

DFL incumbent Leo Foley – He’s 78 years old and is targeted by the GOP.

GOP challenger is Scott Schulte, a Coon Rapids city council member. His family owns mechanic shop

District 51 –

DFL incumbent Don Betzold – targeted because of gay marriage issue

GOP challenger Pam Wolf – teacher, ran against Connie Bernardy before

District 53

GOP incumbent Mady Reiter won the seat with 51.88% of the vote in 2002.

The DFLer is Sandy Rummel, a small business owner.

District 57 –

OPEN SEAT (DFL Sen. Sharon Marko is retiring).

DFL Rep. Katie Sieben appears to have the edge and benefits from a well known political name.

GOP challenger is Ron Kath, who works for Schwan’s

House Races:

District 1A – Thief River Falls

OPEN SEAT (GOP Rep. Maxine Penas is retiring)

DFLer is Dave Olin, longtime Pennington county attorney. Republican is DelRay Flom, an agribusinessman.

District 1B – Crookston

Longtime DFL incumbent Bernie Lieder had a close race in 2004. He now faces a better-known and more-experienced challenger in Republican Doug Oman, a school board chair.

District 2B – Park Rapids


DFL incumbent Brita Sailer, who won by less than 2-percent in 2004, and former GOP Rep. Doug Lindgren.

District 4A – Bemidji

DFL incumbent Frank Moe got 52-percent of the vote in 2004. GOP challenger is minister David Myers. Independence Party candidate is Adam Steele, who’s calling for “charitable prostitution” (his lit says it can be as wonderful, wholesome and beneficial as gambling!).

District 8B – Mora/Hinkley


GOP incumbent Judy Sodorstrom defeated DFLer Tim Faust by fewer than 100 votes in 2004. DFLers believe this is a pickup.

District 12A – Brainerd

GOP incumbent Paul Gazelka, who beat former Senate president Don Samuelson in close race in 2004. DFL challenger is John Ward, a teacher

District 13B – Willmar

Yes, the infamous “Al Juhnke is vulnerable” race. DFL incumbent being challenged again by GOP Bonnie Wilhelm, who got 47-percent of the vote in 2004. Juhnke insisted two years ago that he wasn’t vulnerable. Some Democrats say he better campaign a little more or he’ll be in trouble.

District 14B – St. Joseph

DFL incumbent Larry Hosch is running for reelection in the district with the worst DFL index in the state. GOP challenger Nate Stang has a well-known name – nephew of former GOP Rep Doug. Republicans say this is a pickup for them.

District 17A – Isanti area

Dems are targeting GOP incumbent Rob Eastland. DFL challenger is Melissa Jabas, an Air Force veteran and stay-at-home mom

District 22B –

Rematch of GOP incumbent Rod Hamilton, who won by less than 2-percent in 2004, and DFL challenger Richard Peterson, a farmer

District 23A – St. Peter area

OPEN SEAT (DFL Rep. Ruth Johnson is retiring)

GOP candidate is Iraq/Afghanistan vet Andy Davis. DFLer is Terry Morrow, a Gustavus Adolphus professor.

District 23B – Mankato

OPEN SEAT (DFL Rep John Dorn is retiring)

GOP candidate is attorney Luke Robinson. DFLer is Kathy Brynaert.

District 25B – Northfield

The infamous Bly’s pies seat. This is a rematch of GOP incumbent Ray Cox and DFLer David Bly (it was very close last time).

District 26B –

DFL incumbent Patti Fritz won with 49-percent of the vote in 2004 (beating GOP incumbent Lynda Boudreau). GOP challenger is Otto Luknic, owner of Grumpy’s antique’s (his late wife was a GOP Rep from 1978-82).

District 27A – Albert Lea

OPEN SEAT (GOP Rep. Dan Dorman retiring)

GOP candidate is Matt Benda, a former county GOP chair and attorney. DFL candidate is Robin Brown, a teacher. DFLers see this as a pickup.

District 27B – Austin

Rematch of DFL incumbent Jeanne Poppe and former GOP Rep. Jeff Anderson, who lost to Poppe

Rochester races –

The GOP is working Rochester really hard.

Districts 29B, 30A, 30B

(29A isn’t predicted to be close – GOP Randy Demmer’s seat)

29B is Bradley’s OPEN SEAT – GOP Rich Decker and DFLer Kim Norton. DFLers say Bradley got out because he was spooked at how close the 2004 race turned out to be.

30A is a rematch between DFL incumbent Tina Liebling and former GOP Rep Carla Nelson, who lost to Liebling

30B is a rematch between DFL incumbent Andy Welti and former GOP Rep Bill Kuisle, who lost to Welti and says his health is good now. GOP sees this as a pickup but we’re told Welti is a campaigning machine.

District 31B – Preston

GOP Rep Greg Davids is always targeted. This time it’s DFL challenger Ken Tschumper, a dairy farmer who was opposed the tire burning plant.

District 33B – Wayzata area

OPEN SEAT (GOP Rep. Barb Sykora retiring)/PRIMARY BATTLE

There are three GOP candidates. Former Senator Ed Oliver (who says he’s healthy now), John Berns (GOP-endorsed, works for Pawlenty as director of board and commission appointments) and John Hollander. DFLer is Mary Shrock who the dems love. They say she’s well known in the district and won’t abide by spending limits.

District 36B – Farmington

Freshman GOP Rep Pat Garofalo might be vulnerable for his support for the Twins stadium. DFL challenger Paul Hardt is a teacher.

District 41B – Bloomington


GOP incumbent Neil Peterson faces primary challenge from Mark Chamberlain because of Peterson’s support for new Twins stadium. DFLer is Paul Rosenthal.

District 42A – Minnetonka

Freshman DFLer Maria Ruud being targeted by GOPs. GOP candidate is Bill Cullen, president and founder of Cullen Homes. GOP sees this as a pickup.

District 43B – Minnetonka

(OPEN SEAT – GOP Rep. Ron Abrams retired after receiving a judicial appointment).

DFLer is John Benson, a teacher. GOP candidate is Dave Johnson, who works for Medtronic

District 47A – Champlin/Coon Rapids


Freshman DFLer Denise Dittrich is being challenged by GOP John Tomczak. The voters in this district are fickle and divided.

District 47B – Brooklyn Park


Freshman DFLer Melissa Hortman is being challenged by GOP Andrew Reinhardt, a vet of first Gulf War.

District 53A – Shoreview

Dems think they have a chance (which may be a long shot) to unseat GOP incumbent Phil Krinkie. They say he looks ambivalent about the Legislature after his unsuccessful bid in the 6th District. DFL challenger is Paul Gardner, head of the Recycling Association of MN.

District 54B – Little Canada

Rematch of DFL incumbent Bev Scalze, who beat GOP Ryan Griffin last election – he’s a former MCCL lobbyist.

Other tidbits – House Minority Leader Margaret Anderson Kelliher being challenged by Alex Whitney, grandson of Wheelock, who has some money to throw at the race.