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DFL retakes Minnesota House; MN Senate stays with GOP

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Sasha Williams celebrates as Democrats take control of the Minnesota House.
Sasha Williams celebrates as Democrats take control of the Minnesota House on Tuesday in Eagan.
Ellen Schmidt for MPR News

Updated Nov. 7 12:30 a.m. | Posted Nov. 6, 7 p.m.

Democrats on Tuesday crushed Republicans in the Twin Cities suburbs to retake control of the Minnesota House — an Election Day shift that will remake the Capitol power structure next year.

DFLers gained 18 seats, far more than the 11 they needed to flip the House, with many coming in the Twin Cities suburbs.

"Democrats had a narrow path through the suburbs in districts won by Hillary Clinton, and it appears they were able to flip those seats despite strong performances from our candidates who consistently outperformed the top of the ticket in nearly every race," said House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman.

In the Senate, one seat up for grabs went to the Republicans, ensuring the GOP's majority in that chamber will continue.

With every House seat up for grabs, Republicans went into Election Day with a 77-57 majority in the House. Democrats, though, were bullish about their chances to win back the majority in a midterm where more Democratic voters were mobilized to turn out in opposition to President Trump.  

The most intense competition played out in the Twin Cities suburbs, where Democrats targeted districts where voters picked Democrat Hillary Clinton two years ago but also elected a Republican state representative.

Among the Republicans defeated Tuesday, the DFL wave took out House Education Finance Committee Chair Jenifer Loon, a five-term lawmaker from Eden Prairie; Rep. Sarah Anderson of Plymouth and Rep. Cindy Pugh of Chanhassen.

Democrats also picked up St. Cloud's House District 14B, where incumbent Republican Rep. Jim Knoblach suspended his campaign after allegations of inappropriate behavior from his daughter. He denies the allegations.       

The state Senate is currently tied 33-33, after Republican state Sen. Michelle Fischbach stepped down to run for lieutenant governor in the August primary.      

Republicans wanted to reclaim the one-seat majority they held before her resignation, fielding state Rep. Jeff Howe against Joe Perske, a former Sartell mayor and Stearns County commissioner, ran for the Democrats.      

The district has voted reliably conservative over the years, but both sides spent roughly $1 million on the race. Democrats unexpectedly lost control of the Senate two years ago, and the rest of the chamber isn't up for re-election until 2020.

With nearly all precincts reporting, Howe had 59 percent of the vote, ensuring the Republicans will keep the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, was quick to focus on the GOP's control of his chamber even as the party was swamped in the House.

"You can't call it a blue wave," he said. "You can say it was a midterm adjustment."

Democrats, though, also moved quickly, serving notice about their priorities in the next session.

Rep. Melisa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, the likely next speaker of the Minnesota House, told supporters that her top issues will be gun safety, health care, schools, clean air and water.

MPR News reporters Brian Bakst and Tim Pugmire contributed to this report.