Election wrap-up: Democrats exert control in Hopkins, Minnetonka, statewide
Voters in Hopkins and Minnetonka came to the polls in nearly record numbers for this year’s general election Nov. 6.
In Minnetonka, voters cast 34,382 ballots, or 89 percent of all eligible voters in the city. During the last presidential election in 2008, 33,558 voters cast ballots, or 82 percent of all eligible voters. In 2004, voter turnout in Minnetonka was 92 percent. This year, the city accepted 5,102 absentee ballots – nearly 15 percent of all ballots cast.
This year in Hopkins, 85 percent of all eligible voters – 9,130 – came out to the polls. The city received 993 absentee ballots, which accounted for 12 percent of all ballots cast.
Results from the Minnetonka precincts were not reported until after 1 a.m. due to an error caught by Minnetonka City Clerk David Maeda before the results were presented to Hennepin County.
Election judges in four of the 23 Minnetonka precincts properly accepted a batch of absentee ballots but did not update the voter registration system showing they had been received.
Maeda said it took him awhile to determine the error and quickly solved the issue.
“Once I became confident of that, I sent everything off,” Maeda said. “It took me forever to figure out what was going on.”
Senate District 44:
Incumbent DFL Sen. Terri Bonoff will return to State Senate after defeating Republican challenger David Gaither in the race for the District 44 seat.
Unofficial results show Bonoff winning with 27,204 votes – nearly 56 percent – to Gaither’s 21,464 votes, which accounted for 44 percent of the vote. Seventy-five write-in votes were cast – accounting for .15 percent of the total vote.
Bonoff defeated Gaither in his attempt to return to state legislative politics. Gaither was elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2002 and was later recruited by former Governor Tim Pawlenty to become his Chief of Staff in 2005.
Bonoff watched the election results come in at the District 44 election party at Jake’s City Grille in Minnetonka. The restaurant began shutting down at 12:15 a.m., and Bonoff left without knowing the results.
Bonoff said the results could have been different had the Republicans addressed the economic issues the state faced.
“And instead to spend that time … putting forward the marriage amendment, I think the public rejected that,” Bonoff said.
Gaither said Republicans had a tough task to victory, given they were up against an incumbent U.S. President and the Voter ID and Marriage amendments, which seemed to galvanize the DFL base in the state.
“Not one DFL incumbent lost an election,” Gaither said. “That’s a pretty strong statement. I think it speaks to their get out the vote campaign, and I think the constitutional amendments helped them considerably.”
To get the state back on track, Bonoff said partisan politics will have to take a back seat to effective governance.
“I’m not a partisan person – it will be complicated,” she said. “I think still it will take discipline and courage for each member of the legislature to stand for what is best for Minnesota, and there are challenges that come with that.”
Senate District 46:
Senate District 46 legislators will return to the state Capitol as members of the majority party in both chambers.
Sen. Ron Latz, Rep. Steve Simon and Rep. Ryan Winkler, all DFLers, won re-election by comfortable margins. Senate District 46 includes Hopkins, St. Louis Park, southern Golden Valley, southeastern Plymouth and Medicine Lake.
Latz won about 67 percent of the Senate District 46 vote while Republican challenger Paul Scofield received about 33 percent of the vote. Latz took in 29,755 votes compared to Scofield’s 14,680 votes, according to unofficial results provided by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website. Voters cast 93 write-in votes in the race.
“I’m excited to go back to the Senate,” Latz said. “I’m honored to continue my service to the people of our communities. We have a lot of challenging issues ahead of us, including the structurally unbalanced budget and funding public education and funding light rail transit.”
Senate District 48:
Minnesota State Sen. David Hann, District 48, is another Eden Prairie elected official who held strong on Election Day.
Hann, a Republican, won 53 percent of the votes compared to Democratic challenger Laurie McKendry, who received 46.7 percent of votes.
The vote total was 33,104, including 41 write-in votes.
Senate District 49:
Target attorney Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, won the Senate District 49 seat in a race against two-term Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina. The Senate race was incumbent-free after Sen. Geoff Michel decided not to run for re-election.
Franzen said she’s excited and humbled to represent the district at the Capitol.
“I’m so excited to have gained voters’ trust,” she said, adding that she plans to work hard to keep that trust.
She said she’s eager to get to work. The campaign has been a long journey filled with inspiring moments with the constituents.
Heading into the new legislative session, her focus will be to bring the district together. Throughout the campaign, the district was targeted by outside groups for negative advertising and the district needs to come together, she said.
She said she plans to bridge the negative tone at the Legislature and work on initiatives such as jobs and having a stable economy in the state.
House District 44B:
Incumbent DFLer Rep. John Benson will return to the Minnesota House of Representatives after defeating Republican challenger Mark Stefan in the race for his House District 44B seat.
Unofficial results showed Benson winning with nearly 56 percent of the vote to Stefan’s 44 percent of the vote.
Voters cast 13,754 votes for Benson, 10,848 for Stefan and 36 write-in votes, which accounted for .15 percent of the remaining votes.
“We really appreciate the support of the voters and the trust they put in us,” Benson said. “It was a surprise to me that Democrats gained control in both the House and Senate again.”
Stefan viewed the constitutional amendments as a reason for his loss, as well as the overall Democratic control of the state legislature.
“When all is said and done, it was the two amendments that got the voter turnout for the DFL,” he said.
Now that he’s been re-elected, Benson knows it’s incumbent for him and other members of the DFL-controlled Legislature to put the state first.
“Since the voters have given us this responsibility, we’ve really got to tackle these problems that have been around for years and years,” he said. “For me, the number one items are to pay back the schools and hopefully move forward on the Southwest [Lightrail] corridor.”
House District 46B:
In House District 46B, the southern half of the senate district, Simon won nearly 70 percent of the vote, or 14,956 votes. Republican David Arvidson received about 30 percent of the votes, or 6,372 votes. Voters cast 45 write-in votes.
Simon said he found the election results to be humbling.
“I’m very honored to have been rehired and I hope we can make some progress now on issues that matter to our community: education, transportation, fair budgeting and consumer protection,” Simon said.
He cautioned the DFL needs to proceed cautiously as it takes over the majority in the Legislature, though.
“I certainly don’t over-interpret the results,” Simon said of the election in general. “I think any party entrusted with a legislative majority has to be cautious and respectful and not over-interpret the election results because I think the public will be watching carefully and has every right to do that.”
House District 48A:
Democratic challenger Yvonne Selcer won the Minnesota House District 48A race against incumbent Kirk Stensrud in a close race.
Selcer won by 202 votes or .82 percent more that than Stensrud.
The total vote counts: Selcer: 12,458; Stensrud: 12,256; Write-in: 34.
The .82 percent victory exceeds the .5 percent automatic vote recount mark, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State of State guidelines.
The race was reminiscent of the 2010 election when Stensrud unseated Democrat Maria Ruud by a 107-vote margin of victory.
This year’s victory for Selcer follows a couple missteps weeks before Election Day that could have hurt Stensrud’s bid for re-election.
His campaign used nonprofits’ municipal and county logos on a brochure for a seniors event without permission, and the Republican Party of Minnesota put out a flyer claiming Selcer did not pay property taxes on time, even though the county said she did, prompting a formal complaint from Selcer to the Office of Administrative Hearings.
House District 49B:
Paul Rosenthal, a one-time state representative, defeated his GOP challenger by 1,700 votes to win the Minnesota House District 49B election.
Rosenthal, D-Edina, was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2008 and unseated two years later by Republican Pat Mazarol. Mazarol did not seek re-election resulting in a campaign between Rosenthal and Terry Jacobson, R-Bloomington.
Rosenthal received 13,560 votes, besting Jacobson’s 11,840 votes, according to Hennepin County’s election results.
House District 49B includes western Bloomington, southern Edina and precincts in Eden Prairie and Minnetonka.
Results for state elections are unofficial until the state canvassing board meets on Nov. 27.
Hennepin County Board, District 6:
Incumbent Hennepin County Commissioner Jan Callison will return to the Hennepin County Board after defeating challenger Dave Wahlstedt.
Unofficial results showed Callison winning with nearly 58 percent of the vote to Wahlstedt’s 41.6 percent.
Voters cast 40,904 votes for Callison, 29,420 for Wahlstedt, and 369 write-ins, accounting for .52 percent of the vote.
“I’m pleased, of course, to represent this district for four more years in Hennepin County,” Callison said.
She attributed her victory to her championing road projects, the Southwest Light Rail project and being open and available to her constituents.
“I know that I’ve worked hard for four years to speak for this district,” Callison said.
Wahlstedt said he knew it would be hard to win facing an incumbent, but he appreciated all who helped his campaign.
“I think it’s always tough to go against an incumbent and especially one that’s been in there four years,” he said. “I think we ran a good campaign. I was proud of everybody and pleased with the help we got.”
Like Stefan, Wahlstedt said the marriage and voter ID amendments were important factors in the election. He said he believes Republicans tried getting their base out by having the amendments on the ballot, especially the marriage amendment.
“I think it totally backfired on them,” he said. “I think that was the single biggest rallying point for the DFL, which tends to support my opponent.
“It’s pretty obvious that my platform is lower taxes – I’m going to need to get the GOP base to come out. And I think it was the DFL that came out.”
Three Rivers Park District 3:
Daniel Freeman won with 68.56 percent (36,760 votes) from all 52 precincts in District 3. Matthew Laue lost with 30.25 percent (16,217 votes), and 642 write-in votes were cast, accounting for the remaining 1.20 percent.
“I think this will be an exciting time,” said Freeman. “It’s going to be a little bit of a learning curve for everybody. Any time you have this kind of transition, the nice thing is that there’s new ideas, and it allows us to not be locked in the old way of thinking. I’m anxious to work with the other commissioners, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Three Rivers Park District 3 covers St. Louis Park and Hopkins Precinct 2.
Three Rivers Park District 4:
Former Minnetonka City Manager John Gunyou won the board seat in the Fourth District with 53.55 percent (31,507 votes) of the 67 precincts in District 4. Leigh Harrod received 45.69 percent (26,883 votes), and 446 write-in votes were counted.
The Three Rivers Board of Commissioners heads into the next term with five new board members. Gunyou said the transitional period may take some time to overcome, but he remains optimistic about the end result.
“It’s hard to say how the board will work together at this point. I really don’t know the other folks,” said Gunyou. “I would hope that we will be able to work together. I’ve worked with other boards that have gone through significant turnover, and it does takes some time to get used to it.”
Three Rivers park District 4 covers Deephaven, Excelsior, most of Hopkins, Minnetonka, a portion of Orono and Tonka Bay.
Community Editors Mike Hanks, Paul Groessel, Lisa Kazcke, Brian Rosemeyer and Seth Rowe contributed to this report.