In votes with national implications, Democrats Dean Phillips and Angie Craig on Tuesday defeated Republican incumbents, flipping key seats for Democrats as they looked to regain control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Meanwhile, Republican Pete Stauber defeated Democrat Joe Radinovich in northern Minnesota’s 8th District, a rare GOP pickup in the House.
In the 2nd District, which covers Northfield and the metro area south of the Twin Cities, Republican Rep. Jason Lewis narrowly won his first race two years ago against Craig, a businesswoman. She was back for a rematch this cycle in a race that’s attracted millions of dollars in outside spending. Voters in the 2nd District supported Trump by less than 2 percentage points in 2016.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night, Craig had 52 percent of the vote to 48 percent for Lewis.
“We got caught, I wouldn’t say in a blue wave, but a green wave. They had more money,” Lewis told the Republican election night gathering in Bloomington, in conceding the race late Tuesday.
Craig celebrated the win.
“From the start, this campaign has been centered on people, our values, and what we’re fighting for: health care that Minnesotans can afford, good jobs that pay the bills, and a workforce with the right job skills,” she said in a statement.
“Our campaign has been about civility and decency and finding common ground where it exists. And it’s been about listening to — and showing up for — families in the 2nd District. As a representative, I promise to continue listening and carry your stories with me.”
Phillips, a businessman whose family founded a local distillery had consistently led GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen in polling across Minnesota’s 3rd District, which covers the Twin Cities’ western suburbs.
Paulsen, who was seeking a sixth term, won re-election two years ago even though Democrat Hillary Clinton won his district by roughly 10 points. Democrats, though, hammered him this cycle by tying him to President Donald Trump, who swooped in with a last-minute endorsement of Paulsen.
“I know we came up a little short tonight. Tonight voters have chosen a new voice to lead them in Congress”, Paulsen said in a concession speech to supporters just after 9 p.m. Tuesday.
The Paulsen-Phillips race was among several Minnesota campaigns closely watched around the country.
Democrats had to pick up 23 Republican-held seats across the nation Tuesday to win back the majority in the U.S. House — and at least four of the most competitive races in the nation were in Minnesota.
But Democratic retirements in two rural Minnesota districts have given national Republicans some of their best chances to pick up seats.
In the northeastern 8th District, former state Rep. Joe Radinovich, a Democrat, and Republican county commissioner Pete Stauber were in a heated race. The seat is currently held by DFL Rep. Rick Nolan, who is retiring in January.
With 82 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night, Stauber had 50 percent of the vote, to 46 percent for Radinovich and 4 percent for Independence Party candidate Ray “Skip” Sandman. The Associated Press called the race for Stauber.
And in the southern 1st District, DFL Rep. Tim Walz left his seat to run for governor. Republican candidate Jim Hagedorn, who came within one percentage point of defeating Walz two years ago, is making his third run at the seat. He’s being challenged by Democrat Dan Feehan, an Iraq War veteran and former official in the Obama administration.
With 86 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night, Feehan held a slim lead over Hagedorn — 132,367 votes (49.96 percent) for Feehan to 132,079 votes (49.85 percent) for Hagedorn.
Candidates and groups from both parties have spent upwards of $70 million to flood Minnesota’s airwaves in just these four districts, including for the Phillips-Paulsen race.