Stories about Minnesota

Minnesota, Pennsylvania announce plans to lift face covering requirements

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D) announced May 6 that he will end the statewide mask mandate on July 1. Walz said the mask mandate could be lifted earlier if 70% of residents age 16 and older receive at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. 

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) said on May 4 he will end the statewide mask mandate when 70% of residents age 18 and older are fully vaccinated. Wolf did not announce a target date for ending the restrictions.

Ballotpedia tracked four other amendments to statewide mask orders over the last week:

*Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) amended the state’s mask order on May 2. The updated order lifts the requirement for people to wear masks in indoor spaces with more than 10 people if 80% of those individuals are fully vaccinated. The order does not say what proof is necessary to demonstrate vaccination status.

*Michigan Director of the Department of Health and Human Services Elizabeth Hertel issued an order May 4 lifting the outdoor mask requirement for gatherings of fewer than 100 people. Additionally, players in organized contact sports are no longer required to wear masks.

*Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued an emergency directive updating the statewide mask mandate order to align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest guidance on May 3. The updated language states that people “shall be required to cover their nose and mouth with a mask or face covering in a manner consistent with current guidance issued by the CDC, and any subsequent guidance issued by the CDC.” 

*Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) revised the outdoor mask mandate for vaccinated and non-vaccinated residents and visitors on May 1. Masks are now only required in crowded settings when social distancing isn’t possible. 

In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. Twenty-five states currently have statewide mask orders, including 20 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and five out of the 27 states with Republican governors. 

Of the 14 states that have ended statewide public mask requirements, 11 have Republican governors and 3 have Democratic governors. Eleven states have ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) have ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) has ended its mandate through court order.

Minnesota GOP to elect new chair in April

Last week, we brought you a story about conflicts within the Democratic Party of Nevada. Today, we turn to a similar event in Minnesota, where two party leaders are engaged in a race for party chair.

In April, the Republican Party of Minnesota will hold an election for party chair. Two-term incumbent Jennifer Carnahan is seeking a third term against state Senator Mark Koran (R). Approximately 340 party members from around the state will meet in a virtual convention to vote for the next chair. These party members were selected at 121 local conventions, also known as basic political operating units (BPOUs), 60 of which were directly managed by Carnahan and state party staffers. Koran has alleged that this constitutes a conflict of interest: “It’s a massive conflict of interest. Free, fair, open and transparent elections have to be the basic foundation of what we do. If you have distrust in the process, it’s difficult to get people to accept the results of those conventions.” Carnahan has denied the allegation: “There was no impropriety. … The real conflict of interest here is [Koran] trying to serve in the state Legislature and trying to run the party at the same time.”

Joe Witthuhn, a party member and Carnahan supporter who helped conduct some BPOUs, said, “If I thought she rigged even one individual vote, I would not support her anymore.” Nathan Raddatz, a party member and Koran supporter said, “The best thing would have been to pull the party out of this and let the individual districts hire somebody, to alleviate accusations of a party and the current chair rigging the election.”

The Star Tribune has described the race for chair as a crucial event in shaping the party’s prospects heading into 2022: “Whoever wins the party leadership race in April will have to immediately focus on 2022, when the governor’s office will be on the ballot, along with all 201 legislative seats. DFL Gov. Tim Walz is expected to run for a second term, but no front runner has emerged on the GOP side.”

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Minnesota reopens middle, high schools to in-person instruction

In Minnesota, all middle and high school students were permitted to return to the classroom for either full-time in-person or hybrid instruction starting Feb. 22. Gov. Tim Walz (D) said he expects all schools to offer some in-person instruction by March 8. Parents can still opt to keep their children home for remote instruction.

Previously, high schools and middle schools could only reopen if local health officials approved reopening based on county health data. Elementary schools were allowed to open regardless of COVID-19 case data on Jan. 18.


  • Four states (Calif., Del., Hawaii, N.M.) and Washington, D.C. had state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.
  • Four states (Ark., Fla., Iowa, Texas) had state-ordered in-person instruction.
  • One state (W.Va.) had state-ordered in-person instruction for certain grades.
  • Forty-one states left decisions to schools or districts.

Jim Hagedorn wins re-election to Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District

Incumbent Jim Hagedorn (R) defeated challengers Dan Feehan (D) and Bill Rood (Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party of Minnesota) in Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District.

The election was one of 56 U.S. House rematches taking place this year. In 2018, this seat was left open as incumbent Tim Walz (D) ran for governor. Hagedorn defeated Feehan 50.1% to 49.7% to become one of three Republicans who flipped a seat from Democrats that year. Preliminary returns indicate that Hagedorn expanded his margin over Feehan in 2020, winning 48.6% to 45.5%.

Both parties’ national committees targeted this district in 2020. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Majority PAC spent a combined $5.2 million, while the National Republican Congressional Committee and Congressional Leadership Fund spent a combined $4.2 million.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz recall effort under review by state supreme court

A recall effort has been filed against Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) over his mask mandate in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Minnesota Supreme Court will now review whether the grounds for recall stated in the petition are sufficient and meet statutory requirements. Two earlier efforts to recall Walz were dismissed by the supreme court because the petitions did not meet the legal standards to recall an elected official.

The ‘’Recall Governor Tim Walz’’ group said about the recall effort, “We are hopeful that court gives this petition the fair review it deserves, as we continue fighting on behalf of all freedom loving Minnesotans. As a reminder, the recall is about justice – forcing Walz to personally answer for the tyranny he has imposed for months on end, with no end in sight.” As of October 1, 2020, Walz had not made a statement regarding the recall.

Minnesota is under a divided government. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 35-32 margin and Democrats control the state House by a 75-59 margin. Walz was elected as Minnesota’s governor in 2018 with 53.8% of the vote.

Eighteen gubernatorial recall efforts are currently underway in 2020. Nine of those efforts are against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). From 2003 to 2019, Ballotpedia tracked 21 gubernatorial recall efforts. During that time, two recalls made the ballot, and one governor was successfully recalled. Former California Gov. Gray Davis (D) was recalled in 2003 and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). In 2012, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was retained in a recall election. The only other governor to ever be successfully recalled was former North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier (R) in 1921.

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Tim Walz
Gubernatorial recalls

One Minnesota Supreme Court seat up for nonpartisan election in November

The seat of Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul Thissen will be up for a nonpartisan election on November 3. Thissen is seeking re-election against Michelle L. MacDonald.

Despite the normal method of judicial selection being a nonpartisan election, every justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court was initially appointed by the governor to fill a vacancy. Five of the justices were appointed by Democratic governors while two were appointed by Republican governors.

Barry Anderson: appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) in 2004

Margaret Chutich: appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton (D) in 2016

Lorie Gildea: appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) in 2006

Natalie Hudson: appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton (D) in 2015

Gordon Moore: appointed by Gov. Tim Walz (D) in 2020

Anne K. McKeig: appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton (D) in 2016

Paul Thissen: appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton (D) in 2018

The justices on the Minnesota Supreme Court are elected in nonpartisan elections for six-year terms. The candidates compete in primaries in which the top two contestants advance to the general election. Whenever a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a replacement who then remains in the seat until the next general election occurring at least one year after their appointment. At this time, the appointed justice must run for re-election as the incumbent in a nonpartisan election.

Across all types of state supreme court elections, incumbent justices running for re-election won 93% of the time from 2008-2019. Minnesota has not seen an incumbent supreme court justice lose an election during this same time frame.

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Special election called in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District after candidate’s death

The general election for Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District has been postponed after the death of Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate Adam Weeks. A special election for the seat is scheduled for February 9, 2021.

According to Minnesota law, if a major party candidate dies within 79 days of the general election, a special election must be held. The Legal Marijuana Now Party is qualified as a major party in Minnesota.

The race for MN-02 will still appear on the November 3 ballot. However, any votes cast on November 3 will not count, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office. The outcome of the February special election will determine who wins the seat.

The current candidates in the race—incumbent Angie Craig (D) and Tyler Kistner (R)—automatically qualify for the special election. The Legal Marijuana Now Party will have the chance to select a new candidate.

Passed in 2013, the state law requiring the special election was inspired by the 2002 U.S. Senate race in Minnesota. Democratic incumbent Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash weeks before the general election. The Democratic Party nominated former Vice President Walter Mondale as a replacement candidate, but he was defeated by Republican Norm Coleman.

Angie Craig’s term ends on January 3, 2021. That means that Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District will be without a representative in the House until the winner of the special election assumes office.

As of September 2020, 11 special elections have been called during the 116th Congress. From the 113th Congress to the 115th Congress, 40 special elections were held.

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Michelle Fischbach wins nomination to challenge Collin Peterson in MN-07

Michelle Fischbach defeated four other candidates to win the Republican nomination in Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District. As of 9:45 p.m. Central Time, Fischbach had received 59% of the vote, followed by Dave Hughes with 22% and Noel Collis with 15%. Two other candidates each received under 3% of the vote.

Fischbach, who served as state senate president for two terms before resigning in 2018 to succeed Tina Smith (D) as lieutenant governor, was endorsed by President Donald Trump (R), U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and the 7th District GOP. Hughes, who was the Republican nominee in 2016 and 2018, was backed by Americans for Legal Immigration PAC.

Fischbach will face incumbent Collin Peterson (D), who has represented the district since 1990. The 7th District is one of 30 districts currently represented by a Democrat which President Trump carried in 2016 and is the district where Trump had his widest margin of victory. Trump’s margin over Hillary Clinton (D)—30.8 percentage points—was nearly double the 15.5-point margin he received in New York’s 22nd District, his next-best performance. Two election forecasters say the general election is a toss-up and a third says it tilts in Peterson’s direction.

Ilhan Omar wins MN-05 Democratic primary

Incumbent Rep. Ilhan Omar defeated four candidates in the Democratic primary for Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District. As of 9:25 p.m. Central Time, she had received 57% of the vote. Antone Melton-Meaux was second with 39%.

This was the first time in more than 85 years that an incumbent U.S. representative from Minnesota had more than three primary challengers.

Omar is among four congresswomen often referred to as the squad, along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). She said her accomplishments in the House include passing more amendments than any other member of the Minnesota delegation, working to extend the Deferred Enforced Departure status for Liberians in the state, and introducing the Student Debt Cancellation Act.

Melton-Meaux, a lawyer and mediator, criticized Omar by saying she was more focused on arguments with the president and celebrity status than on the needs of the district. He said he would find common ground with others to achieve progressive goals.

As of July 22, Omar had raised $4.3 million to Melton-Meaux’s $4.2 million.

Omar won the 2018 general election by a margin of 56 percentage points. All 435 seats in the U.S. House will be up for election on November 3, 2020. As of August 2020, Democrats have a 232-198 advantage over Republicans. There is one Libertarian member, and there were four vacancies.

Minneapolis voters will not see police department removal charter amendment in November after the charter commission votes to take more time for review

Minneapolis voters will not decide on a charter amendment in November to remove the city’s police department and replace it with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. On August 5, the Minneapolis Charter Commission voted 10-5 to take an additional 90 days to evaluate the proposal.

This effectively blocked the measure from the November 2020 ballot, although it could still appear on a later ballot. The city council’s deadline to add the measure to the November 2020 ballot is August 21. The city council is not able to vote on the measure until the charter commission returns it.

The charter amendment would have:
  1. Removed all references to the city’s police department from the city charter.
  2. Added a section establishing the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, and the director of the new department.
  3. Allowed a Division of Law Enforcement Services within the new department that would have been made up of licensed peace officers and would have had a director appointed by the director of the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.

Under the existing charter provisions, the mayor has authority over the police department and nominates the police chief, who must be confirmed by the city council. The existing charter also requires the city council to provide funding to the police department to provide for “a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident.”

This proposed amendment would have made the city council responsible for establishing and funding the proposed Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention and given the city council authority to establish the Division of Law Enforcement Services within the department. The director of the proposed Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention would have been nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the city council.

Following the killing of George Floyd and the resulting demonstrations and protests, the  Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously on June 26, 2020, to send the proposed charter amendment to the Minneapolis Charter Commission for review. Under the process for charter amendments set by state law, the charter commission must review proposed amendments and make recommendations to the city council. The city council does not have to follow the commission’s recommendation, but cannot vote to send a charter amendment to the ballot until the recommendation is made. The charter commission has a maximum of 150 days to review proposals from the city council.

The charter commission considered its own amendment that would have removed the minimum funding requirement for the police department from the charter. On July 29, the charter commission voted 8-6 against referring it to the ballot.

Charter Commissioner Gregory Abbott said, “[the charter] should not be cluttered up with the policy disputes of the moment. We don’t know what challenges the city will face in 10 years or 20 years or even in 50 years. It [the charter amendment] proposes permanently moving the city’s law enforcement function down to a sub-department two levels removed from supervision by elected officials. The council’s proposal even specifies the professional qualifications of the head of the new department, details more appropriate in my opinion for a zip recruiter ad than for a charter provision. Now these ideas may well be good under the circumstances but they should be enacted as part of an ordinance not included in the charter itself. There is another problem I have with the charter amendment. The proposal radically reduces the power of the mayor and transfer those powers in their entirety to the city council.”

Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison responded to the commission’s vote, “It is our legacy in the US to use voting to decide our future, whether that be by representative democracy or direct democracy. It is not our legacy to use bureaucratic processes to circumvent the people in an attempt to ‘protect’ voters from themselves. That is not democracy. In a democracy, the people decide. But I guess today the Charter Commission decided otherwise.”

Mayor Jacob Frey, who opposes the charter amendment, said, “I look forward to working with Chief Arradondo, my council colleagues, and community to transform the culture of policing in our city in the months ahead. Now it is on all of us to roll up our sleeves and dig into this work together.”

This is not the first time that the Minneapolis City Council has proposed a charter amendment concerning the police department, and the charter commission has declined to expedite its review to meet a general election deadline. On August 3, 2018, the Minneapolis City Council voted 7-5 to send a charter amendment proposal to the Minneapolis Charter Commission that would have repealed provisions in the charter giving the mayor complete control over the city’s police department. The measure would have, instead, allowed rules and regulations for the police department to come from both the city council and the mayor. The charter commission did not make a recommendation to the city council in time for the city council to put the measure on the November 2018 ballot. Instead, the commission ordered a task force to create a report on the proposal. The commission ultimately recommended against the charter amendment in January 2019.

In the weeks after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020, nationwide demonstrations and protests were held calling for changes to policing. Officials responded by issuing executive orders and passing legislation to eliminate certain policing tactics, such as chokeholds, and implement new community policing strategies.

Voters in at least half a dozen cities and counties—including San Francisco, Los Angeles County, and Sonoma County, California; King County, Washington; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Columbus, Ohio; and Portland, Oregon―will decide ballot measures in November concerning law enforcement oversight, structure, funding, policies, and staffing levels. Stay tuned to Ballotpedia for an overview of this ballot measure trend as it develops.

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