Wednesday, February 06, 2019

It's up to 11 to increase MNGOP majority

As of early January, a scant one vote Republican majority in the Minnesota Senate was literally the only hope in thwarting the DFL House majority and Dem governor Tim Walz from enacting a liberal utopia of "gun control," gas tax increases, a double digit percentage increase in the biennium budget, etc. As such, there was literally no margin for error. All 34 GOP senators would have to not only be present for when critical votes are taken but also be unified in their votes. No easy feat.

Thankfully after Tuesday evening the GOP now has slight wiggle room.

Minnesota Senate Republicans doubled their one-seat majority Tuesday as voters cast ballots in a special election in east-central Minnesota.

With all precincts reporting, Republican state Rep. Jason Rarick of Pine City defeated Democrat Stu Lourey by 52 percent to 46 percent.

Republicans had just a one-seat majority in the Senate before newly elected Gov. Tim Walz appointed Democrat Tony Lourey to his Cabinet. The Senate is their only lever of power at the Capitol, and flipping the District 11 seat added to their margin, now 35-32.

Lourey’s son Stu, who has worked as a legislative aide to Sen. Tina Smith, was running for his father’s seat.

This is one of those rural districts which has evolved over the past few election cycles. When President Barack Obama was reelected in 2012, he won SD11 by 12 points over Republican Mitt Romney. However, it was nearly the exact opposite in 2016 as GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump bested Democrat Hillary Clinton by 13%.

Of all the priorities Dems had coming into this legislative session, the biggest emphasis was put on "gun safety measures." But given that Rarick was enthusiastically endorsed by the MN Gun Owners Caucus (combined with Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk giving a chilly reception to his own party's initial gun grabber proposals), Tuesday evening was definitely a great night for law abiding gun owners.

With the full Senate up again in 2020, these next two years will be critical in convincing MN voters to keep the Republicans in control of the Senate. At this time it seems a long shot for the GOP to regain a House majority (DFL holds a 75-59 advantage) given Trump's popularity cratering in this state, so the Senate looks to be the safety valve for the foreseeable future.

If you're a center-right politico in Minnesota, the vigilance is indeed eternal.


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