Stories about Minnesota

Minneapolis City Council votes to certify Nov. 2 ballot language for initiative to replace police department

On July 23, the Minneapolis City Council voted to approve a ballot question and explanatory note for a citizen initiative that would replace the police department with a department of public safety. The measure will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The initiative would remove language on the city’s police department from the city charter, including provisions requiring minimum funding for the department and giving the mayor control over the police department. It would also create a department of public safety. The measure would allow the new department to include “licensed peace officers if necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of the department.” Under the initiative, the mayor would nominate and the city council would appoint the commissioner of the public safety department.

Yes 4 Minneapolis submitted more than the required 11,906 valid signatures for the initiative on April 30. The city clerk certified the petition on May 14.

The city council’s vote was to (a) set the ballot language for the measure and (b) accept a city attorney report stating the measure concerned a proper subject matter for the city charter and is constitutional. The resolution now goes to the mayor’s desk; he has five days to sign or veto it. Mayor Jacob Frey opposes the initiative, but the resolution before him does not affect whether the measure will go on the ballot.

Frey’s office stated, “Mayor Frey maintains that giving the Minneapolis City Council control over public safety work would mark a major setback for accountability and good governance. The mayor will not be signing the measure, but appreciates the careful work and thorough analysis done by City staff to prepare fair and accurate language for voters to consider this fall.”

Yes 4 Minneapolis stated, “It all started in Minneapolis. Following the murder of George Floyd last summer, we witnessed a community movement against state-sanctioned violence — a movement to better protect Black lives. […] Our movement demands our city leaders move away from violent policing to create a department that addresses community safety holistically and with a public health approach. Our movement believes that the community should decide what safety looks like. To do so, we must amend the city charter that was written in 1961 and forces us to build on a broken system. We are proud to bring this issue to voters this November.”

The city council considered putting its own charter amendment to replace the police department on the Nov. 2 ballot. But sponsors withdrew the measure when Yes 4 Minneapolis’ initiative qualified for the ballot citing concerns over confusing voters. The city council passed a similar charter amendment in 2020, but the city’s charter commission effectively blocked the measure from the November 2020 ballot by taking the full time allotted to it for review.

Additional reading:

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.”

Additional Reading:

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.

Additional reading:
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.

Additional reading:

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.

Additional reading:

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.