Minnesota is currently only one of two states where both U.S. Senate seats are up for election in 2018 (the other being Mississippi).  In both cases, this is due to the resignation of a sitting Senator the year their colleague Senator is up for election.  Under normal circumstances, Amy Klobuchar’s would be the only seat up for election this year.  However, with Al Franken’s resignation earlier in January, his seat, which would typically be up for election in 2020, is up for election in 2018 to cover the duration of his term.  We’ll discuss each race separately.

Senate Seat #1

The incumbent.  First elected in 2006, Amy Klobuchar is running for her third term representing Minnesota. She serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee (which should receive attention in the coming months with the impending Supreme Court nomination hearings), is a member of the Democratic Senate Leadership and is occasionally mentioned as a potential 2020 presidential candidate.  https://www.amyklobuchar.com/

DFL Competitors. There are four other DFL candidates running against her in the primary:

  • Stephen Emery.  St. Cloud attorney Stephen Emery is running as a “conservative Democrat” touting pro-life, pro-gun, and “pro-traditional family” positions.   https://emeryforsenate.org/
  • Steve Carlson.   http://stevecarlsonforussenate2018.com/
  • David Robert Groves
  • Leonard Richards.  Richards, a 72-year old currently serving a life sentence for murder, has filed to run for Senate. He has attempted runs for US House in 2014, 1994, and 1992.

GOP Competitors.  There are three candidates vying for the GOP nomination to face the DFL candidate in November.

  • Jim Newberger.  A third-term Minnesota House member from Becker, Newberger is a staunch conservative, and is pledging to restore “balance” to the Minnesota congressional delegation.  https://www.jimforussenate.com/
  • Merrill Anderson.  A pro-Trump conservative,  Anderson is running in the GOP primary for this Senate seat after flirting with a run for Governor. He came in last place in the 2014 GOP gubernatorial primary.  https://www.merrillanderson1.com/
  • Rae Hart Anderson.

Other Candidates. 

  • Paula Overby (Green Party).  A data analyst, Overby is making her third run for Congress. In 2014 and 2016, she sought the 2nd Congressional District seat as an Independence Party candidate, and earned 8% of the vote in 2016.  http://www.paulaoverby.com/
  • Dennis Schuller (Legal Marijuana Now Party).  Dennis Schuller is running for the Senate on the Legal Marijuana Now ticket. He sought to represent Minnesota’s 5th District in Congress in 2016.  http://www.dennisschuller.com/

Outside Analysis of the Race.  Both the Cook Political Report (https://www.cookpolitical.com/ ) and Center for Politics (http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/ ) rate this race as a Solid Dem seat.  The general consensus is that Klobuchar is a very strong candidate and well liked in the state.  Most of the serious competition she would have received have instead focused their aim at the second Senate seat, (which is considered more vulnerable with a relatively weaker candidate less well known) or the Minnesota Governor’s race (which is open due to Governor Mark Dayton being term limited).


Senate Seat #2

As mentioned, the second Senate seat is open due to the resignation of former Senator Al Franken earlier this year.  With the opening, Governor Mark Dayton appointed Tina Smith, former Lieutenant Governor, to the seat until the election to fill the seat occurs in November.

The Incumbent.  Tina Smith was serving her first term as lieutenant governor of Minnesota when Sen. Al Franken resigned, prompting Gov. Mark Dayton to appoint Smith to the seat. Smith has spent years as a behind the scenes political operator in DFL circles, including as Gov. Mark Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s chief of staff.  https://tinaforminnesota.com/

DFL Competitors.  There are five candidates seeking the DFL nomination.

  • Richard Painter.  Painter was the chief ethics counsel in the George W. Bush administration and a lifelong Republican until the election of Donald Trump. Now he said he’s left the party and is running for the U.S. Senate in the DFL primary on an anti-Trump message. He will try to distinguish himself from Tina Smith on issues like campaign finance, tariffs and the environment, particularly his opposition to mining projects like PolyMet and Twin Metals.  https://www.painterminnesota.com/
  • Nick Leonard.  Nick Leonard is a Minneapolis attorney running as a “true progressive.” He filed to run for a primary after drawing little support from DFL delegates at the state endorsing convention.  https://nickleonardforsenate.com/
  • Ali Chehem Ali. Ali C. Ali, an immigrant from Djibouti, is running as a “strong progressive voice” for Minnesota.  http://www.aliforminnesota.com/
  • Gregg Iverson.
  • Christopher L. Seymour, Sr.

GOP Competitors.  There are three candidates running for the GOP nomination.

  • Karin Housley.  Housley is serving her second term in the Minnesota state Senate. She is also a real estate agent in her suburban district and is married to NHL Hall of Fame hockey player Phil Housley. She is running with the slogan: “A new voice for Minnesota.”  https://www.housleyforsenate.com/
  • Nikolai Bey
  • Bob Anderson.  Anderson, a conservative who brands himself an “outsider candidate” vowing to continue the Trump movement, is vying for the GOP endorsement for this Senate seat.  https://www.bobandersonforsenate.com

Other Candidates

  • Jerry Trooien.  Trooien is an independent candidate for the seat.  http://trooienforsenate.us/
  • Sarah Wellington (Legal Marijuana Now Party).  Sarah Wellington is a retired teacher running for Senate on the Legal Marijuana Now ticket.

Outside Analysis of the Race.  Both the Cook Political Report (https://www.cookpolitical.com/ ) and Center for Politics (http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/ ) view this as more competitive than the other Senate seat.  Both rate it as “Likely Dem” for now given the environment and the uncertainty over who may emerge as the candidates in the General Election. However, the door is open to changing that rating depending on who emerges from the primaries within both parties and how strong a candidate they are coming out of them.  If Smith loses or faces a close primary, you can expect this race to see an influx of outside money and interest.  In addition, Housley is seen as a strong recruit for the GOP and a good contrast with Smith; if she survives the primary, this race could shift dramatically.  Stay tuned.


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