Minnesota State Legislative Special Elections since 2010

There is a special election on Tuesday in Minnesota State House District 32B, in the far northern portion of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.  

Actually, this could more accurately be described as the last election of the 2016 cycle.  The vacancy in this district exists because the Minnesota Supreme Court determined that the Republican incumbent, Bob Barrett, did not meet the residency requirements to stand for election on the November ballot, and so all votes cast in this race in November were not counted.  The GOP was required to select a new candidate, and a special election in February was ordered.  At a special nominating convention, Republicans selected their State House Campaign Committee director, Anne Neu, to replace Rep. Barrett on the ballot.  The Democratic candidate is their 2014 nominee, Laurie Warner.  The current party composition of the Minnesota House of Representatives is 57 Democrats and 76 Republicans.

Former State Representative Barrett was first elected in what was House District 17B back in 2010, but he faced a very tough re-election contest in 2012 after redistricting against a former D-F-L State Senator, Rick Olseen, winning by just under 400 votes.  As the table below shows, Barrett was re-elected much more comfortably in 2014 against Ms. Warner, and President Trump carried this district by almost a two-to-one margin.

To further analyze this race, I compiled a listing of all state legislative special elections held in Minnesota since 2010 which did not take place concurrent with a regular general or primary election.  This chart appears below, and a .pdf version is available for download at the bottom of this post.

Two initial observations:

  1. Most of these elections took place in districts that solidly favored one party or the other.  Of the 13 such special elections since 2010, only once did party control change hands.  That instance was just last year, when Republican Chad Anderson narrowly defeated Democrat Andrew Carlson in HD 50B, 51%-49%.  In both 2012 and 2014, longtime State Rep. Ann Lenczewski won re-election in this district rather easily, but the GOP scored an upset win in the 2016 special in February.  The Republican’s success was short-lived, however.  In November, the general election featured a rematch between the two special election candidates, with State Rep. Carlson (D) winning a full term, 54%-46%.
  2. The average percentage turnout for all such state legislative specials during this period was 18%.  Interestingly, turnout in State House specials was higher than those for the State Senate.  The five State House races which were contested by both parties (i.e., where both Republicans and Democrats fielded a candidate) had turnout significantly higher than the average – 24%.  The total number of registered voters in Minnesota HD 32B as of Election Day 2016 was about 27,700.   If turnout in this Tuesday’s special is in line with that historical average, this election will have about 6,600 ballots cast.

Minnesota State Legislative Special Elections since 2010

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