U.S. House: Craig beats Kistner in hotly contested race; incumbents win

Angie Craig
Representative of Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District, Angie Craig, hugs an attendant at her election night party on Tuesday. The party was held at Loons Landing Brewery in Savage, Minnesota.
Zoe Walker for MPR News

Updated Nov. 9, 2:22 a.m.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Angie Craig won a new term in Congress Tuesday, beating Republican Tyler Kistner in one of the nation’s most closely watched congressional races.

The 2nd District contest was a rematch of the 2020 race between incumben Craig and Kistner. It was closely watched nationally — Republicans saw it as a key prize in their plans to flip control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The race had been the one Minnesota congressional race that for months was too close to call. That was also true Tuesday evening into Wednesday as the votes rolled in into the district that covers a swath of the Twin Cities south metro area. Dakota County struggled with “modem transmission” issues that dragged the tally through the overnight into Wednesday.

Craig had positioned herself during the campaign as someone who could stand up to her own party to get legislation passed, and has touted her endorsement by police groups. 

Kistner tried to tie Craig to President Joe Biden and Washington Democrats, saying their policies have failed to hold down costs for families and have led to a rise in crime.

The contest was on pace to be the most expensive in state history when spending by the candidates is combined with that thrown in by independent groups trying to tip the race. More than $25 million will have been spent, much of it on TV ads that ran endlessly on Twin Cities broadcast stations. 

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In 2020, Craig defeated Kistner 48 to 46 percent, with a third party Legal Marijuana Now candidate getting nearly 6 percent of the vote.

By a strange coincidence, that candidate, Adam Weeks, died weeks before the election. This year another Legal Marijuana Candidate, Paula Overby died in October. Like Weeks two years ago, Overby’s name remained on the ballot. 

Redistricting this year added Le Sueur County and a chunk of southern Washington County to the 2nd  District, and took away Goodhue and Wabasha Counties, but it’s unclear what impact the new areas will have on the outcome.  

Incumbents dominate

Elsewhere, Minnesota Democratic U.S. Reps Ilhan Omar, Dean Phillips and Betty McCollum all cruised to victory Tuesday night in their bids to return to Congress, as did GOP Reps. Michelle Fischbach and Tom Emmer.

Minnesota 5th District voters on Tuesday returned Omar for a third term, beating Republican newcomer Cicely Davis.

The district, which includes all of Minneapolis and some of the inner-ring suburbs, is the most reliable for Democrats in the state. Omar, though, faced a tough primary challenge earlier this year from Don Samuels, a former Minneapolis City Council member.

DFL 3rd District U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips also won easily over Republican Tom Weiler.

The district, encompassing the suburbs around Minneapolis was solid Republican territory for decades until Phillips won the seat in 2018 and again in 2020. It went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020. 

In the 4th District, which includes St. Paul and the east metro area, McCollum looked to extend her stint as the longest serving member of the Minnesota delegation as she faced Republican May Lor Xiong, a Hmong refugee who moved to the United States with her family in 1987. 

In the 6th District, just north and west of Minneapolis, Republican Tom Emmer won a fifth term as he spearheaded efforts to win Republican control of the House as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Emmer faced a challenge from first-time candidate Democrat Jeanne Hendricks. 

In the 7th District in western Minnesota, Republican incumbent Michelle Fischbach seeks a second term in the seat she flipped in 2020 from longtime Democratic incumbent Collin Peterson. The Democrat running against her this year is Jill Abahsain. Legal Marijuana Now candidate Travis "Bull" Johnson is also in the race.

In southern Minnesota’s 1st District, the newest member of the state’s delegation, Republican Brad Finstad is in a rematch with Democrat Jeff Ettinger, who lost a special election to Finstad this summer to fill out the remainder of the late Jim Hagedorn’s term.

In the 8th District, which covers a vast area of northern Minnesota, Republican Pete Stauber won a third term, beating DFL opponent is Jen Schultz, a state representative and economics professor from Duluth.