Cheat sheet: Minnesota House races to watch

The candidates for Minnesota House will be spending the weekend before Election Day knocking on doors, making phone calls and handing out campaign flyers. Officials with both parties say the race for control of the House is a toss-up.

Democrats currently control the House and are working to build a firewall around about 20 seats. Republicans need to pick up seven to win control.

Most years the legislative contests get overshadowed by the race for governor, but this year it’s different.

Minnesota House races have so far attracted more money than the governor’s race. Parties and political groups unaffiliated with the candidates have poured at least $6.7 million into a handful of competitive districts. To find out where the money’s being spent, check out MPR’s analysis here.

Here’s a cheat sheet and some analysis of the districts on our radar on Election night:


  • Rep. Deb Kiel, R

  • Eric Bergeson D

It’s one of the few seats where Democrats can play offense. They like their candidate and the partisan index in this northwestern Minnesota District, but Kiel has won tough races before.


  • Rep. Roger Erickson, D

  • Dave Hancock, R

A rematch from 2012. Republicans are hoping that a drop off in voters in a non-presidential year will help them win this large northwestern district that includes the Red Lake Indian Reservation.


  • Rep. Steve Green, R

  • Dave Sobieski D

One of the few races that Democrats think they have a shot at defeating an incumbent. But the northwestern Minnesota district could prove tough in a midterm. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is spending money here.


  • Rep. John Ward, D

  • Josh Heintzeman, R

Ward has won this Brainerd-area district repeatedly. But Republicans think they have a chance to defeat him by linking him to the Affordable Care Act. Mitt Romney won this district with 55 percent of the vote.


  • Rep. Joe Radinovich, D

  • Dale Lueck, R

This race was a top target for Republicans. Radinovich won in 2012 by just 323 votes. Republicans say the district, which includes Aitkin County, leans their way.


  • Rep. Tim Faust, D

  • Jason Rarick, R

This district has shifted back and forth over the years. Democrats won it in their wave years in 2006, 2008 and 2012. Republicans won it in 2010 and are bullish about their chances this time. The district includes Sandstone and Pine City.


  • Rep. Jay McNamar, D

  • Jeff Backer, R

This has been a top target for Republicans from the outset. Special interest groups are spending heavily in the district which spans 3,500 square miles across northwest Minnesota. It’s the only district that is adjacent to both North and South Dakota.


  • Rep. Tama Theis, R

  • Dan Wolgamott, D

Democrats think they have a shot in this St. Cloud area district because Wolgamott is an energetic candidate in the mold of former state Rep. Larry Hosch. Hosch is advising Wolgamott’s campaign. Theis is running in her first general election contest. She won a special election when State Rep. Steve Gottwalt resigned to become a lobbyist. The makeup of the district favors Theis.


  • Rep. Zach Dorholt, D

  • Jim Knoblach, R

This St. Cloud area contest is being watched closely because Knoblach, a former chair of the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Capital Investment Committee, is coming out of retirement. The district leans Democratic, but Knoblach is well known in St. Cloud. He represented part of the district and grew up in another part of the district. You want to know how competitive this race is? Both sides have been running radio ads here since August.


  • Rep. Andrew Falk, D

  • Tim Miller, R

Republicans think they have a shot in this race because Mitt Romney won the district in 2012. Falk, however, defeated Miller by 8 percentage points that year. This is a race to watch because Republicans think Falk is too liberal for a district that has many conservative Democrats. The district includes Chippewa, Swift and Renville Counties.


  • Rep. Mary Sawatzky, D

  • Dave Baker, R

Republicans are optimistic about their chances in this district because Baker is a well known businessman in Willmar. He’s also been active in the local Chamber of Commerce. Sawatzky, however, has proven that she’s been a nonstop campaigner, posting her daily fitbit activity results from door knocking on her Facebook page.


  • Rep. Patti Fritz, D

  • Brian Daniels, R

Fritz keeps winning this Faribault area district that leans Republican. The GOP has high hopes that they can win it in a non-presidential election year.


  • Rep. Shannon Savick, D

  • Peggy Bennett, R

  • Thomas Keith Price, IP

Savick is facing a stiff challenge from Peggy Bennett, a well known school teacher from Albert Lea. The district leans Democratic but geography could hurt Savick, since she lives in Wells, a smaller city than Albert Lea. A key factor in the race may be how many votes Price gets. He’s been a critic of government spending and ran for the Republican Party endorsement in 2006 but lost. Democrats are worried about holding this seat.


  • Rep. Melissa Hortman, D

  • Peter Crema, R

Republicans have spent a lot of time and money over the past decade trying to remove Hortman from this seat in a district that includes Coon Rapids and Brooklyn Park. They’re putting in another strong effort this year. Democrats are in for a long night if Hortman loses.


  • Rep. Barb Yarusso, D

  • Randy Jessup, R

This race started getting more attention in recent weeks when the liberal group, The Alliance for a Better Minnesota, started running TV ads criticizing Jessup. Republicans think they have a solid shot of winning the seat because Yarusso may be too liberal for the area. The district includes Shoreview, Mounds View, Spring Lake Park and Arden Hills.


  • Rep. Jason Isaacson, D

  • Heidi Gunderson, R

Republicans think they have a chance to win this seat that includes Shoreview, Roseville, Little Canada, Gem Lake and Vadnais Heights. GOP House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt has been seen campaigning for Gunderson, a hint that the caucus believes it has a chance to win the seat. President Obama won this district by wide margins in 2012.


  • Rep. Peter Fischer, D

  • Stacey Stout, R

This is a rematch from 2012, but Republicans think they have a better shot at winning the seat this year because Fischer has a record they can criticize. In 2012, Stout outperformed Romney in the suburban district that includes Mahtomedi, White Bear Lake and Maplewood. Democrats are worried about holding this seat and have spent a lot of time and energy protecting it.


  • Ryan Rutzick, R

  • Jon Applebaum, D

This is an open district that that includes  Minnetonka and Plymouth and is attracting plenty of attention. It’s been held by DFLer John Benson for several years but Republicans think they have a shot.


  • Rep. Yvonne Selcer, D

  • Kirk Stensrud, R

This is a rematch from 2012 and may be one of the most expensive Minnesota House races this year. The district includes Eden Prairie and Minnetonka. Stensrud won the seat in 2010 but Selcer won it in 2012 and has been careful with her votes. She is one of two Democrats to vote against the 2013 tax bill that hiked income taxes on top earners. She also chief authored House File 1, a bill to repay the schools for past payment delays.


  • Rep. Ron Erhardt, D

  • Dario Anselmo, R

Erhardt is a former GOP lawmaker who ran again as a Democrat. Anselmo bills himself as a moderate Republican. The Edina district has become more competitive in recent years.


  • Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D

  • Barb Sutter, R

Rosenthal is a top target for Republicans. He served in 2008, lost his re-election battle in 2010 but won a slightly different district in 2012. The district includes parts of  Bloomington, Eden Prairie and Edina. Republicans have been bullish about their chances here.


  • Rep. Sandy Masin, D

  • Andrea Todd-Harlin, R

Republicans like their candidate in this race. But the district, which includes Burnsville and Eagan, leans Democratic. It may come down to how the candidates for governor and U.S. Senate fare here. Republicans, however, think Todd-Harlin is a great fit, since she grew up in the area.


  • Rep. Laurie Halverson, D

  • Jen Wilson, R

This district changed hands in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Democrats think Halverson is a great fit for the Eagan area district. Republicans like the trend lines that occurred over the last four cycles.


  • Rep. Will Morgan, D

  • Roz Peterson, R

This race is a rematch of 2012. Republicans really liked Peterson’s chances that year and are happy she signed up to run again in the district that includes Burnsville and Lakeville. Morgan has been in tough contests before, winning in 2006 and 2008 but losing his seat in 2010. This is a must-watch race this year.

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