Primary primer: What you need to know about Minnesota's August election

Two people stand in booths as they vote.
Voters cast their ballots in the presidential primary at Precinct 10-8 at Whittier International Elementary School in Minneapolis on March 3, 2020.
Tom Baker for MPR News

Updated: June 6, 9:25 a.m.

On Aug. 11, Minnesota voters will choose the DFL and Republican nominees for U.S. Senate, most of the state’s U.S. House seats and dozens of state legislative seats.

The deadline for candidates to file for, or withdraw from, state-level races has passed, setting the ballot for the summer primary and, in some cases, the November general election.

At the top of the ticket, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat, will face off against challengers Steve Carlson, Ahmad Hassan, Paula Overby and Christopher Seymore in the August primary, as she seeks her first full six-year term in office. Smith was appointed to the Senate in January 2018 and won a special election that November to stay in office. Republicans will have to decide if they want to nominate former U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis or rivals John Berman, Bob Carney, Cynthia Gall and James Reibestein. 

DFL voters in the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th congressional districts will have to choose their party’s nominee, all cases in which incumbent representatives are facing primary challenges. Republican voters will have choices in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th districts. Seats in the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 7th districts are held by Democrats, while the 6th and 8th have Republican incumbents facing party challengers.

In the state Legislature, there will be 25 DFL primaries and 15 Republican primaries. 

Of those 40 legislative primaries, 11 incumbent Democrats and 7 incumbent Republicans face primary challenges. 

There are eight primaries for seats where the 2016 presidential election was within 10 percentage points, of which half — Senate districts 6 and 34, and House districts 33B and 56A — were within 4 percentage points. 

For other candidates, the primary battle may be the toughest race they face this year. There are 10 primaries in seats where either Trump or his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton won at least 75 percent of the vote.

Four state legislative candidates don’t have any elections to worry about this year now that the candidate filing deadline has passed because they have no opponents in either the primary or the general election: 

  • Rep. Heather Edelson, DFL-Edina

  • Rep. Mohamud Noor, DFL-Minneapolis

  • Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona

  • Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-St. Grove City

Both houses of the Minnesota Legislature are up for election in November, with the DFL having a majority in the House and Republicans a majority in the Senate. Democrats took control of the House in the 2018 elections, while the Republicans won the Senate in 2016. State senators weren’t on the ballot in 2018.

Gov. Tim Walz, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and statewide offices such as the attorney general and secretary of state aren’t up for election until 2022. 

MPR News reporter Brian Bakst contributed to this report.

Correction (June 6, 2020): A previous version of this story contained an incorrect year for the next election for Minnesota governor and other statewide offices. Those offices are on the ballot in 2022.

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