MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There’s more at stake on this year’s ballot than all the individual contests. A larger issue that will have a profound effect on the lives of all Minnesotans — that’s control of the state legislature.

State legislators determine laws on issues like gun control, legalizing marijuana, COVID-19 response, how much you pay for taxes, and more. This year, all 201 members of the legislature are on the ballot.

WEB EXTRA: Click here to explore WCCO’s 2020 Election Guide.

This year, 22,000 voters have cast an ballot early in Maple Grove, compared to 6,000 in all of 2016. Fueling the local interest is a Maple Grove senate race. The rematch in District 34 is between long-time incumbent Republican Sen. Warren Limmer and the Democrat opponent, family attorney Bonnie Westlin. Last time Limmer won by 20%, but this time Westlin has picked up the endorsement of Barack Obama, and Republicans are on defense in the suburbs.

“I wouldn’t vote for Limmer if you paid me,” voter Dorothy Warrick said. “Between the, ‘Gee, we don’t trust the ballots in the mail’ to, ‘Gee, don’t wear the masks.'”

“I really don’t care for his position on guns,” voter Gladys Odegaard said.

Limmer is chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a powerful force at the Capitol, and has many grateful supporters.

“I am a strong proponent of Warren Limmer; he is a strong leader,” voter Ray Kuntz said.

Senate District 34 is ground zero for the battle over who will control the legislature. So far $1.5 million in outside money has been pouring in to try and influence this race. The Republicans have just a three-seat majority in the Senate. That has Democrats convinced they can seize control.

But Republicans have their targets too. The Minnesota House was a 16 seat DFL majority, something Republican leaders think voters could overturn in order to provide a check on Gov. Tim Walz.

“if Republicans win the House and the Senate, the Governor’s emergency powers can be removed and we can at least move in this direction,” Sen. Paul Gazelka said.

Minnesota is currently the only state in the country that has a divided legislature.

Esme Murphy