Sunday, October 31, 2010

Six Minnesota Senate races the DFL can't lose

Control of the Minnesota Legislature is in the balance in this election. While it's easy to focus on the top of the ticket, there are 201 other races that will collectively have as much influence on the way the state of Minnesota addresses its budget deficit (among other things.)

Since the beginning of partisan legislative elections in 1974, the Minnesota Senate has always been controlled by the DFL. But there is a real, though slight, chance that the GOP could ride a wave of voter dissatisfaction in 2010 and seize control of the chamber.

By my reckoning, there are 24 safe DFL seats, and 10 safe Republican seats, all currently held by each party. But there are 33 other seats that are at least theoretically in play. The GOP has the advantage in 17 of those races (5 currently held by the DFL), and 10 others I consider a toss-up (all 10 of these are currently DFL seats.) See the bottom of this post for my list of the races in each category.

There are six crucial contests that lean toward the DFL, that are currently held by the DFL. Losing any of these would seriously threaten the DFL's ability to hold the Senate.

hPVI is a measure of the partisan lean of a district. In all references to hPVI, I've drawn from Tony Angelo's work at his blog minn-Donkey (which you should go and read as soon as you are done here.)

SD2 (R) Dennis Moser vs. (D) *Rod Skoe

Rod Skoe is a two-term Senator who won his last election by 20 points. He’s also in a pretty middle of the road district (hPVI -2 DFL). Moser has raised nearly $11,000 in individual contributions, but Skoe is sitting on over $25,000 cash on hand. If he’s worried about Moser, he’s not spending commensurately. If Skoe is unseated, that would be a sign of a massive wave for the Republicans. As is, this is a pretty safe seat for the DFL.

SD8 (R) Michael Cummins vs. (D) *Tony Lourey

Tony Lourey is a one-term Senator, who replaced his mother Becky Lourey in 2006 when she ran for the DFL gubernatorial endorsement. He won his first try for the Senate by 15 points. The district is pretty favorable for the DFL at hPVI +6. His opponent, Michael Cummins, is very conservative for the district and has raised only $5,000 in individual contributions compared to over $12,000 raised by Lourey. That said, enthusiasm for Chip Cravaack in the southern part of CD8 could put wind in the sails of statehouse candidates. This is another seat to watch as a potential sign of a massive GOP takeover of the Senate.

SD23 (R) Peter Trocke vs. (D) *Kathy Sheran

In a normal year, this would go in the “solid DFL” category. The district is hPVI +2 for the DFL. Kathy Sheran is well-known and has raised over $20,000 in individual contributions, and is sitting on over $32,000 in cash. Her opponent, Peter Trocke has raised only $7,400 in individual contributions. Sheran, former Mayor of Mankato and daughter of Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Sheran, should win this race. But this year all one-term DFL incumbents have to be viewed as potentially vulnerable.

SD51 (R) Pam Wolf vs. (D) *Don Betzold

Sen. Don Betzold is a multi-term Senator first elected in 1992, but he’s clearly in a defensive mode. He faces the same opponent that he defeated by 9 points in 2006. He’s only raised around $6,000 in individual contributions, and has spent over $45,000 on his campaign. But his opponent, teacher Pam Wolf, hasn’t raised much more than than that. The district is hPVI -2 DFL, and while that’s not terrible for Betzold, he has good reason to be concerned as a long-term incumbent in a battleground district.

SD39 (R) Robb Soleim Jr. vs. (D) *James Metzen

I include this race in the “Lean DFL” category only because of concerns about the lingering effects of Metzen’s 2007 DUI conviction. Metzen won handily in 2006, defeating his opponent by 28 points. Metzen’s been Senate President since 2002. This is a swing district at hPVI +2 DFL, but Metzen is an institution, and his opponent appears to be running a boilerplate Republican campaign. Nonetheless, you can ask Jim Oberstar how much security he feels as an institution in 2010. A Metzen loss would portend a switch in control of the Senate.

SD50 (R) Gina Bauman vs. (D) Barb Goodwin vs. (I) Rae Hart Anderson

Once again, this is a race that in another year would be in the “Safe DFL” column, but the craziness in the DFL primary means I will list it here. Former Rep. Goodwin is well known in the district, having represented 50A for several terms and serving on the Columbia Heights School Board. She ousted incumbent Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, stripped of the DFL endorsement following revelations that he inserted special fishing regulations into a natural resources bill. This race might be closer if it weren’t for Rae Hart Anderson. Anderson was the 2006 Republican nominee, but is running on the IP ticket this time. Gina Bauman is a New Brighton City Council member, but has struggled with visibility.

In each case, these are seats the DFL needs to win. If any of these fall to the Republicans, it will be a serious blow for the DFL's prospects of controlling the Senate.

Senate in the Balance

Strong DFL: 24 (1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 20, 27, 44, 45, 46, 54, 55, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67)
DFL incumbents in favorable districts, or with a track record of strong performance in their district (1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 20, 27, 44, 45, 46, 54, 55, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66)
Nonincumbent DFL in highly favorable district (7, 67)
Lean DFL: 6 (2, 8, 23, 39, 50, 51)

Tossup: 10 (10, 15, 30, 31, 38, 40, 43, 47, 53, 56)
Multiterm DFL incumbent in vulnerable district (47)
One term or special election incumbent in vulnerable district (10, 30, 31, 38, 40, 43, 56)
Nonincumbent seeking to hold current DFL open seat (15)
Lean R: 17 (4, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 25, 26, 28, 37, 42, 48, 49, 52)
One-term/special DFL incumbent in highly vulnerable district (4, 16, 17, 25)
Currently DFL open seat (22, 28)
One-term/special GOP incumbent (11, 13, 26, 37)
Currently GOP open seat (12, 18, 21, 49)
GOP incumbent, but with weaker election track record (42, 48, 52)
Strong R: 10 (14, 19, 24, 29, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 41)
GOP incumbent, strong GOP district (14, 19, 24, 29, 32, 33, 34, 35, 41)
GOP open seat, strong GOP district (36)
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Phoenix Woman said...

How would this affect redistricting?

Tom said...

Both House and Senate stay solidly DFL.  All top state offices stay the same with the addition of Governor Dayton.  All U.S. House seats also remain the same.  The more the rest of the country changes, the more we stay the same.  Having seen the results of one party rule at the Federal level I eagerly await the same future here in Minnesota.

blogspotdog said...

Gosh, Tom, you sound discouraged.