Minnesota legislators competed in dozens of primary races across the state Tuesday, with some incumbents losing their races for re-election while a group of Republican senators managed to fend off challenges to their right.
A larger-than-usual number of legislative primaries were on the ballot this cycle due to redistricting, the once-a-decade process of redrawing the state's political boundaries following the U.S. census count.
Republicans faced more legislative primary races than DFLers on Tuesday, partly thanks to an energized GOP base in what has been a strong political environment for the party in recent months. New activists who flocked to the party during the past two years, many energized by issues associated with former President Donald Trump, challenged Republican incumbents on issues such as election security concerns and anger over pandemic-era lockdown measures.
But many of those incumbent lawmakers held on to their seats. Republican Sen. Eric Pratt of Prior Lake prevailed in a challenge from "medical freedom" organizer Natalie Barnes, who secured the party's endorsement.
Bret Bussman, an Army veteran from Browerville who said he believes the false claims that widespread voter fraud led to Joe Biden's election in 2020, lost to incumbent Republican Sen. Paul Utke for a central Minnesota Senate seat, despite winning the endorsement.
Several candidates aligned with libertarian group Action 4 Liberty, which led the challenge against fellow Republicans, did prevail Tuesday night. Tom Dippel beat Republican state Rep. Tony Jurgens for Cottage Grove-area Senate seat. Mark Bishofsky, a former respiratory therapist who protested vaccine mandates, beat school board member Tina Riehle in a race for a new Stillwater House seat.
On the Democratic side, embattled St. Paul Rep. John Thompson was handily defeated by Liz Lee, who won the party's endorsement following reports of domestic violence allegations in Thompson's past.
In several suburban House races, Democratic incumbents were paired in the same district after the lines were redrawn. DFL Rep. Steve Elkins defeated fellow DFL Rep. Andrew Carlson in a primary for a Bloomington-area House seat, while Rep. Liz Reyer won over Rep. Sandra Masin for an Eagan seat in the House.
Other candidates are now poised to make history after winning their primary races. Transgender candidate Leigh Finke beat teacher Dave Thomas in a DFL primary race that covers parts of Falcon Heights, St. Paul and Roseville. She's expected to be the first transgender legislator in state history.
Erin Maye Quade won decisively in a DFL Senate primary race in the Apple Valley area, after going into labor during the endorsement process and losing the party's backing to candidate Justin Emmerich. She's among several candidates who could become the first Black women to serve in the chamber.