As we are watching the Primary contests for US Senate, Governor, and Attorney General our attention is often diverted to the Democratic side, because other than the race for Governor on the Republican side, it is far more dynamic.

US Senate

The race between US Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and Richard Painter is heating up literally, last week his campaign released Painter’s Dumpster Fire Ad, while Smith’s campaign put forward a feel good/getting to know you ad. From our viewpoint, this means Smith has low name identification numbers and she needs to be introduced to the DFL Primary electorate and to the voters in November. The problem is there is little time in this election to make a lasting impression. Yesterday marked the seven-week mark until the Primary on November 14th. If Smith wants to increase her name id she needs to be far more aggressive. The target rich environment means start lambasting Donald J Trump (R) and showing the effectiveness against him. This is a point scoring game, there is no time for defense only an offensive attack will generate the interest of the electorate. This a one-on-one match-up where the person seen to be the best at scoring points against Trump especially those where he responds by tweet is the mark of success. If he coins a nickname for you, then that is an ultimate success.

Right now, Painter is the junkyard dog, the mangy animal who is willing go toe-to-toe with Trump while Smith is the soccer mom type you invite over for tea, more Poodle than Pitbull, intent on playing it safe rather than telling it how it is. Again, there isn’t enough time for timidity. In our interview with him, Painter acknowledged Smith’s need to do her work as a Senator and commented frequently on similarities between the two. Exclusive Preconvention Interview with Richard Painter Although Smith and Painter also have similar hairstyles. Shock and Awe is the approach, machine gun style criticisms, which can result in success if elected. Fact, Republicans haven’t won a statewide race since 2006, fact Smith is in office and has the power of the seat to propose legislation and effect change, fact Painter is the outsider, recently converted Democrat, but like Bernie Sanders party labels are having less and less meaning.

This election is too important to be timid and Smith needs to show she has the capability to contend against all comers Trump, Painter state Sen Karin Housely (R-39, St Mary’s Point).

Governor

Our analysis of this contest is a toss-up we can see a path to victory for all three camps, Erin Murphy/Erin Maye Quade, Tim Walz/Peggy Flanagan and Lori Swanson/Rick Nolan. By the numbers Murphy/Maye Quade should have an edge because traditionally the DFL Primary has been determined by the results in 4th, 5th and 8th Congressional Districts. Just as statewide elections have been. Right now this race looks like 25/25/25 with a 25% variable.

The fact that there is a contested Primary for the open seats in the 5th and the 8th, should mean an even higher voter turnout in those districts, and the question is who does a higher turnout favor.

In the 4th Congressional District, it should advantage Murphy/Maye Quade because Murphy is a long-term member of the St Paul legislative delegation and has the endorsement of AFSCME Council 5, SEIU and the MN Nurses, which have influence and vote in large numbers in this district. Although, Walz/Flanagan has the support of MAPE and the MN Teachers and Building Trades, which could cut into this vote, especially in the suburban portions of the district. Additionally, the support of Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN04). Swanson/Nolan may also contend with Murphy/Maye Quade in the 4th because it is a more rational district, which may respond to Swanson’s role as Attorney General for three-terms as an example of an effective woman leader. Again, Swanson could cut into Murphy on gender, which in turn could benefit Walz.

The 5th Congressional District is the key success in the DFL Primary and it is a battle to secure a slice of the urban vote and prevail in the suburban vote that will make the determination. In order to win the Primary Murphy/Maye Quade will need to secure as much as 50% of the 5th. Just as Walz needed to do in the DFL endorsement but failed to do so. Also, Murphy needs to increase her name recognition, which is low outside of St Paul. That is not saying her opponents have staggering numbers in comparison.

On Friday, Murphy/Maye Quade campaign has scheduled an early voting event with 5th Congressional District endorsee Rep Ilhan Omar (DFL-60B, Minneapolis) at Hennepin County Plaza. This shows Murphy/Maye is focusing their efforts on turnout in the 5th Congressional District which is a wise strategy but also comes with an alienation factor. This will also provide cover for Walz/Flanagan voters to turn to former Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher (D-MN05).

In Greater Minnesota, Walz/Flanagan is seen as having the edge because Walz represented the 1st Congressional District and carries the support of Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN07) and again the MN Teachers and the Building Trades. The offset question is whether or not Congressman Rick Nolan (D-MN08) brings a sizeable number of votes to the Swanson/Nolan ticket thereby cutting into Walz/Flanagan. One thing is clear because of her pick of Maye Quade, Murphy rightly or wrongly is perceived as undervaluing Greater Minnesota, which leaves it as a contest between Walz/Flanagan and Swanson/Nolan, with the question being who carries the most weight.

The fact, that the Governor’s race will appear 4th on the ballot, means voters will have already made their selection for the two US Senate races, which are currently held by women, and the Congressional seat which will be filled by a woman and need to determine if they want to put forward a universal women’s ticket in November against former Governor Tim Pawlenty (R). We are hearing from current elected officials in Minneapolis, they are concerned if the presentation of the DFL in November is an all-Women ticket it is a runway for Pawlenty especially in Greater Minnesota.

Right now, gender diversity is only available in certain places on the ballot. If Smith prevails then it is US Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and followed by the respective candidate for Congress, in the 1st it’s a male in Dan Feehan (D-MN01), but in the 2nd its Angie Craig (D-MN02), in the 3rd another male in Dean Phillips (D-MN03), in the 4th its incumbent Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN04), in the 5th it one of the three women candidates, in the 6th its Ian Todd (D-MN06), in the 7th its incumbent Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN07) and in the 8th it whoever emerges from the field, likely a man.

This means in three districts two urban and one suburban the voters will not have a chance to vote for a man on the DFL side until the fourth item on the ballot. In Minnesota, women hold the edge in the overall electorate 51 to 49 and Democratic voters are supported by women upwards of 70% of the time. This means the potential votes are there to support a universal women’s ticket, but that strategy focusses heavily on the core metropolitan Congressional Districts and additional support from the 2nd and 3rd Congressional Districts, which could pose a tight General Election against Pawlenty.

Attorney General

We will be surprised if Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN05) is elected as Attorney General because we doubt Minnesota is as universally progressive as people like to think. Already we are hearing from rural communities the whisper campaign which is Ellison wants to bring Sharia Law to Minnesota. Now we know this is a ludicrous idea, but one being openly discussed outside of the metro. This is the type of issue that is so concerning to religious voters they might even forgo their own primary contest for Governor to cross-over and vote against Ellison in rural Congressional Districts, like the 1st, 2nd, and the 7th.

If it is not Ellison then when we look at the field it favors Rep Deb Hilstrom (DFL-40B, Brooklyn Center) but the knock on her candidacy is she has not shown the ability to raise money, but again if this is a universal all-woman ticket she derives her benefit by gender. Also, in this case, it is a replacement set, swapping one-woman Swanson for another Hillstrom it is not a dramatic change.

We think the DFL endorsed candidate Matt Pelikan (DFL-MN) is the weakest candidate in the field and in spite of having the endorsement will finish a distant 3rd or maybe 4th.