Minneapolis' incumbent DFLers retain seats in other races amid record absentee voting
Election Day in Minneapolis produced Minnesota’s — and the nation’s — first Somali-American legislator.
Unofficial returns showed DFLer Ilhan Omar won 15,860 votes (80 percent) to take House District 60B, the longtime seat of Phyllis Kahn, who Omar bested in a primary. Republican challenger Abdimalik Askar finished with 3,820 votes (19 percent).
‘Tonight, we are celebrating this win, our win. But our work won’t stop,” Omar said in a statement released by her campaign after polls closed on Election Day. “We will continue to build a more prosperous and equitable district — state, and nation — where each and every one of us has opportunities to thrive and move forward together.”
Diane Loeffler (DFL) was re-elected in Northeast Minneapolis’ District 60A with 15,587 votes (74 percent), overcoming a spirited challenge from an independent candidate, musician Gabe Barnett, who won 5,423 votes (26 percent).
As expected, incumbent DFLers prevailed in other races across Minneapolis by wide margins.
Karen Clark will return to her District 62A seat after winning 12,657 votes (88 percent) over Republican Claire Leiter’s 1,600 votes (11 percent). In neighboring District 62B, Susan Allen, who was running unopposed, took 16,759 votes (98 percent).
In Southwest, incumbent DFLer Frank Hornstein will return for an eighth term in District 61A with 21,656 votes (79 percent) to Republican Brian Rosenblatt’s 5,615 votes (21 percent). House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, who represents District 61B, won with 19,424 votes (80 percent), compared to Republican Tom Gallagher’s 4,672 votes (19 percent).
Voters returned DFL state senators Scott Dibble, Kari Dziedzic and Jeff Hayden to office, as well.
Dibble won 42,173 votes (81 percent) in District 61, where Republican Bob “Again” Carney Jr. won 9,729 votes (19 percent). Dziedzic took 31,542 votes (78 percent) in District 60, defeating Legal Marijuana Now candidate Martin J. Super, who won 8,861 votes (22 percent). And in District 62, Hayden received 29,564 votes (88 percent) for a win over Republican challenger Bruce Lundeen, who took 3,897 votes (12 percent).
Hennepin County voters returned Rep. Keith Ellison to Washington, D.C., for another term representing District 5. Ellison defeated Republican Frank Drake 234,234 to 71,407 (70 percent to 21 percent). The Legal Marijuana Now party’s Dennis Schuller finished third with 27,815 votes (8 percent).
The county’s voters preferred the Democratic presidential ticket of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine over their GOP challengers and the eventual victors, Donald Trump and Mike Pence, by a better than 2-to-1 margin. Unofficial election totals show Clinton took 429,274 votes (63 percent) to Trump’s 191,767 votes (28 percent).
Record absentee voting
In the first presidential election since state law changed to allow for no-excuses absentee voting, a record number of Hennepin County voters cast their ballots in the days and weeks leading up to Election Day.
“The percentage casting absentee ballots was huge,” Hennepin County Elections Manager Ginny Gelms said, adding that it appeared more than 200,000 people voted absentee this year. The previous record, set in 2008, was 82,000.
Minneapolis voters turned in 57,474 absentee ballots, according to the city’s unofficial tally. About 60 percent of absentee voters (34,657) cast their ballots at one of the city’s four Early Voting Centers.
The most popular turned out to be the South Early Voting Center in the former Roof Depot building on East 28th Street, which processed ballots from 13,426 voters. Voters who showed up there may have spent more time in line than they would have at their polling places on Election Day, Gelms said.
“Minneapolis had some locations where (waits) were up to three hours. I heard that from Bloomington, too,” she said, adding that the record-setting absentee turnout meant “a little bit less pressure at the polls on Election Day.”
Coworkers Ashley Alitz and Connor Duffey, a 25-year-old first-time voter, decided to join the line to enter the Downtown Early Voting Center just before 5 p.m. on Nov. 7, even though at that point the wait to vote was more than an hour long. The line exited the building, went down the block and wrapped around the corner.
“I thought it would be quicker than voting tomorrow,” Alitz said, but eyeing the line she decided maybe she’d been wrong. She and Duffey weren’t going anywhere, though.
“We got the parking ramp,” she said. “We’re here.”
A little further back in the line, Rachel Hulsizer and Laura Steinkofs made the same decision.
“We just wanted to get it done,” Steinkofs said.
‘Literally a part of history’
Voters at the Bakken Museum in West Calhoun had one uniform reaction after voting Wednesday: Thank goodness it’s almost over.
“How about some positivity instead of all the damn negativity,” voter Tom Jones quipped.
Jones was part of what appeared to be a sizable contingent of West Calhoun residents who voted for Hillary Clinton for president. He said “it wasn’t even a choice” in voting for Clinton over Donald Trump. “That’s not the kind of person I’d want to have be the leader of the most powerful country in the world.”
Voter Becky Saltzman quoted a line from the musical “Hamilton” in explaining her emotions after casting her ballot for Clinton: “And when our children tell our story, they’ll tell the story of tonight.”
“I’m literally a part of history right now,” she said.
Voter Nate Bird said he would enjoy that his Facebook friends will no longer be filling his feed with political sniping.
“This year it seemed like more voting against people than voting four people,” Bird said.
“I’m just terrified of Donald Trump,” he added. “Blatant racism is a little too much.”
Caroline Cochran, a parent of four kids in Minneapolis Public Schools, also voted for Clinton. She said she appreciates Clinton’s career long dedication to serving the poor and her ability to get things done within the political system.
Cochran said the MPS referendum was a big issuer for her on a local level. She said her kids’ class sizes at Lake Harriet Community School and Southwest High School would dramatically increase if the referendum did not pass. It did.
— Nate Gotlieb contributed to this report