With one day left, it’s crunch time.
Candidates in top Minnesota races made closing swings over the weekend while party activists hit the streets, worked the phones and deployed other tactics to drive up turnout among voters they see as likely supporters.
Retired nursing instructor Eileen Weber of Denmark Township has been all over the eastern Twin Cities suburbs this fall promoting DFL candidates and arrived at a canvassing kickoff with her red medical scrubs adorned with buttons of the ones she’s backing.
“My knuckles have pushed a lot of doorbells. I'm sure a lot of Ring-cam videos I'm now on,” Weber said, offering her view that Minnesotans appear to be engaged. “I don’t feel like people are sitting this one out like normally in a midterm.”
Engineer Darren Castro of Woodbury senses much the same in his efforts for the Republican ticket.
“Lit dropping, door knocking — just been a phenomenal summer and fall. And I'm excited,” Castro said, clad in a “Jensen-Birk” jersey that had buttons of GOP legislative candidates on it as well. “We talked to so many voters who have said ‘I've never voted Republican in the past. But I am this year because this has just gone too far. And we have to take back our state.’”
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Castro typically votes Republican but said he was never engaged to the degree he is this year. And, he said, he’s still got work to do.
“Tuesday, for sure I'll be out by the sides of the roads and at the intersections and bridges and we'll kind of see what else between now and then,” he said.
The success of Weber, Castro and party volunteers like them in mobilizing their neighbors will determine which party comes out on top in competitive races — from the governor’s office to the state Legislature.
At a steelworkers union hall in Cottage Grove this weekend, DFL Gov. Tim Walz sought to rev up supporters as they prepared to fan out in nearby neighborhoods.
“I'm gonna ask you to sign up and get on the doors,” Walz said after ticking through what he says is a stark contrast between him and Republican opponent Scott Jensen. “Because I will acknowledge this: Republicans finish strong in elections because they do the psychology of fear and they bring it. They bring the fear from all sides, they rain it down.”
DFL Chair Ken Martin said people could catch their breath Tuesday night.
“We work until every person that is standing in line has a chance to vote,” Martin said. “No party starts until after 8 p.m, right?”
More than a half-million people have already sent ballots in, according to the latest count released Friday. But for those waiting until Election Day, polls open Tuesday at 7 a.m. and will remain open until everybody in line by 8 p.m. comes through.
Later in the day Saturday, a crowd of about 100 stood in a steady drizzle in a park in Oakdale as a bus pulled up.
“Is there a doctor in the house,” state GOP Chair David Hann asked, cueing the entrance of Jensen to cheers and cow-bell clangs.
Jensen is a former lawmaker, a family physician and the Republican nominee against Walz. He acknowledges being vastly outspent, but Jensen tells the gathering he believes the issues and momentum will carry him past the incumbent.
“You crazy people. Thirty degrees! You people have created a movement,” Jensen said. “The bottom line is he doesn't have a movement. And our movement is being driven by moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas. Our movement is being driven by millennials and Gen Zs. Because we're doing a better job of telling young people, we need you at the table to help solve problems.”
One key Republican not on the bus tour was Jim Schultz, a first-time candidate locked in a tight contest for attorney general. At the same hour as Jensen was in Oakdale, Schultz appeared with police groups in Chanhassen.
He’s made violent crime a central tenet of his campaign even though the office traditionally has had a limited role in that area.
“This is a critical moment for the future of our state. We have to get it done,” Schultz said. “There's no you know, we'll try again next year, we have to get it done. We can't do it. Failure is not an option.”
During stops on the DFL swing, Attorney General Keith Ellison touched on consumer protection and worker rights. He said the race is a nailbiter.
“We have got to close strong,” Ellison said. “And we need every one of you to get out there and talk to more neighbors, more folks, more folks who want to get involved and be a part of our community. You got to invite people to democracy. You've got to bring people into this system.”
One of the most expensive races this year is a congressional rematch between DFL incumbent Angie Craig and Republican Tyler Kistner. Their 2nd District race was close in 2020 and is going down to the wire again — with TV ads from both sides running in succession.
Craig told people at a Saturday morning event they can’t let up now.
“My name, my face may be in the attack ads. You're welcome. But this seat belongs to the 2nd District of Minnesota. They are behaving as if the House majority depends on taking me out on Nov. 8,” Craig said. “Let's behave as if every single minute between now and then depends on whether they do that or not. And they will not.”
At a GOP campaign regional headquarters in an office park in Burnsville, Kistner also laid out the stakes.
“Ultimately, we're fighting for one thing,” Kistner said. “We're fighting for that one vote in Congress in this district, to implement the change that we've been looking for, for the last two years, that we have not been getting from Angie Craig and Joe Biden.”
People with political fatigue can rest assured that the end of the ads and candidate back-and-forth is near.
"The great part about elections as compared to most other projects in life — home project, work project, school project — is there's no getting an extension here or a postponement," Secretary of State Steve Simon said this weekend. "There is no more time. It's happening on Tuesday. You can bank on it."
MPR News political reporters Dana Ferguson and Mark Zdechlik contributed to this story.