MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Most attention these days is focused on the presidential campaign or statewide races. But the battle for control of the Minnesota Legislature may be the most important Election Day story.
Republicans control both the House and the Senate, but a handful of suburban and outstate districts could change that.
One of them — House District 43A, which includes Hopkins and Eden Prairie — could determine who controls the Legislature.
Kirk Stensrud is putting in 6 to 10 miles a day campaigning in his new legislative district.
“This is the second pair of shoes that I have gone through,” he said.
The first term Republican is in a battle to keep his west suburban legislative seat. And he says lack of jobs is the number one issue.
“A lot of these folks have kids in college,” he said. “They’ll have someone who just graduated from college –from St. Thomas or Hamline — and they are living in the basement with mom and dad, and they can’t find a job.”
But Democrat Yvonne Selcer says she’s getting different feedback from voters: frustration over gridlock at the Capitol.
“I hear people saying a lot [legislators] have to stop acting like children, they need to be adults,” she said.
Republicans won the House by just 700 votes in 2010, and the Senate by 2,000 votes.
Voter turnout will be higher this year, and WCCO-TV’s analyst Larry Jacobs says Republicans this face a “daunting” challenge.
“This year we’re going to see 75-78 percent turnout,” Jacobs said. “Probably more democrats turning out than they did in 2010, so the Republicans know they’ve got a real fight on their hands to hold the majority.”
Out of public view, outside groups are pouring millions of dollars to win control of the Legislature. And the candidates are hoping their messages resonate on Election Day.
“It’s rare I meet someone who says ‘Oh yea, I am making more than 2 or 3 years ago,’” Stensrud said. “And that’s what they are looking for state government to do.”
On the other hand, Selcer said voters remember a different Minnesota, one “where at the end of the day where everybody sat down and worked it out.”
“That’s what made our state great,” she said.
Jacobs has developed a list of 22 House and Senate districts WCCO will be watching on Election Night. Depending on how those districts vote, we should be able to track who controls the Legislature.