Red wave? In Minnesota, Dems ride blue wave to control government

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Democrats defied expectations in a midterm election that had been expected to go well for Republicans, winning the governor’s race and completing a trifecta Wednesday by winning both houses of the Legislature to take full control of state government for the first time in eight years.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller conceded Wednesday morning that his party had lost its majority to Senate Democrats. That followed a concession earlier Wednesday from GOP House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt and the re-election of Democratic Gov. Tim Walz on Tuesday night.

“Tim Walz is the governor for four more years,” GOP challenger Scott Jensen told supporters in a concession speech. “Republicans, quite frankly, we didn’t have a red wave. It was a blue wave. And we need to stop, we need to recalibrate, we need to ask ourselves: ‘OK, what can we learn from this? What can we do better? How do we go forward?’ ”

While several legislative races were yet to be called as of Wednesday morning, Democrats appeared to exceed the 68 seats they need to preserve their majority in the House, while Democrats appeared to have the 34 seats they need to control the Senate.

The only other time that Minnesota saw single-party control in the past 30 years was when Democrats held full power in 2013-14, and the last time any Minnesota Republican won statewide office was in 2006, when Gov. Tim Pawlenty was reelected.

Democrats also appeared poised to keep Minnesota’s three other constitutional offices. Secretary of State Steve Simon defeated Republican election skeptic Kim Crockett, winning more votes than any other Democratic statewide candidate including Walz.

Attorney General Keith Ellison and State Auditor Julie Blaha held narrow leads over GOP challengers Jim Schultz and Ryan Wilson in races that had yet to be called Wednesday morning.

Amy Koch, a former Republican Senate majority leader turned political strategist, said weakness at the top of the GOP ticket and and the party’s alienation of women were major factors in the Democratic sweep.

“We should have wiped the floor with the DFL. We didn’t. We lost,” Koch said in an interview.

She said a stronger showing by Jensen could have lifted other statewide Republicans. And she said she heard from many women, and many Republicans, angry over comments by Jensen running mate Matt Birk against abortion rights and women having careers, including accusing abortion rights supporters of playing the “rape card” by demanding exceptions to abortion bans for rape and incest.

Many women responded by quietly going to the polls and voting for Democrats, she said, and “that’s why everybody is in shock this morning.”