Nov 21, 2023 - Politics

Scoop: National Democratic group wades into special election for Minnesota House seat

Minnesota House District 52B
Map: Axios Visuals

A national group dedicated to winning Democratic majorities in state legislatures is weighing in ahead of December's special election for a south metro Minnesota House seat, Axios has learned.

Driving the news: The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee will announce Tuesday that it's adding Bianca Virnig, the DFL nominee in House District 52B, to its "spotlight" candidate program.

Why it matters: Holding the district could help Democrats maintain their narrow majority — and the DFL trifecta — next year when all 134 House seats are up for a vote.

  • While largely symbolic, the committee's move underscores ongoing national interest in the broader stakes.

State of play: The outcome of the Dec. 5 special election, triggered by the September resignation of DFL Rep. Ruth Richardson, won't flip Democrats' five-seat majority in the House. But whoever wins will have strong odds of victory next year.

Reality check: Most local political insiders don't believe the seat is seriously in play. Richardson carried nearly 62% of the vote when she won re-election last year.

  • Virnig faces Cynthia Lonnquist, the GOP nominee who lost by more than 10 percentage points in both 2020 and 2022, and Libertarian nominee Charles Kuchlenz.

Yes, but: Anything can happen in a low-turnout special election given the relatively small number of voters driving the outcome.

Between the lines: The election is also an opportunity for both Democrats and Republicans to test messaging and political strength ahead of next year.

  • Nationally, Democrats are looking to tout a 2023 track record that includes wins in the majority of special legislative elections.

What to expect: The DLCC, which put protecting a DFL majority in Minnesota's House on its list of top 2024 targets, spent millions on state-level races here last year.

The other side: Republicans aren't leaving the race uncontested. Expect to see some spending aimed at getting out the vote from the Minnesota House GOP, too.

What's next: Early voting starts Monday, Nov. 27. Election Day is Dec. 5.


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