- They’re not just focused on big races like the US Senate but also on downticket races where we absolutely have to build power.
- In addition to registering and motivating voters, they’re groups that will pressure the Democratic party to live up to the progressive values it claims to hold.
- They are run by local people who know a lot better than I do which primaries matter and which candidates have a real chance. They’ll also work to elect the lesser evil, if that’s what’s on the table.
- I generally try to avoid donating to primary races outside my own area (do I know who has the best chance at beating Marjorie Taylor Greene? I do not! You know who might? the Democrats in her district!) but post-primary is often really late to start fundraising for the general election. Funding organizing helps to provide a head start for whoever wins.
- Let’s be honest about this: the Democratic party in some states is run by people who truly do not appear to know their ass from their elbow. I appreciate the opportunity to donate to groups that have some chance of filling the gap in states where the party is incredibly badly run.
This is going to be a post specifically about supporting campaigns for Minnesota State Senate candidates. If you live in Minnesota, first of all, you should be aware of the Political Contribution Refund program. This allows you to get a $50 refund if you donate to a legislative race or a political party. (Or races for Governor, State Auditor, Attorney General, or Secretary of State — but those aren’t on the ballot this year.) You donate; they send you a receipt (form EP-3); you fill out a form and send in the form EP-3; the state sends you a check for $50.
Something to bear in mind: the flip side of this is that the campaigns you donate to have to send you that form even for a very small donation. If all you have is $5, then send your favorite candidate $5. But if you have $10, I would strongly encourage you to send it to one candidate and not divide it between two. If you have $20, ditto. If you have $200, then $50 to four different candidates makes more sense. You can also absolutely send donations to the Minnesota Senate DFL Caucus, which will direct funds to candidates in tight races who need them.
One other note: one of the great things about donating to legislative candidates is that if they’re out there campaigning, even if they don’t win, they will help get out the Democratic vote for Joe Biden and Tina Smith. There are Democrats in every part of this state.
On to the specific candidates. These are all candidates for the State Senate who need support, either because they’re Democratic incumbents in vulnerable seats, or Democratic challengers to Republicans in vulnerable seats.
THREE CLOSE RACES WHERE SOME CASH COULD MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE
Senate District 14 is in St. Cloud. In 2016, the Republican won by less than 200 votes. Aric is a Communications professor at St. John’s/St. Ben’s. His priorities include schools (“the legislature funds our schools like we’re a small town, and we aren’t anymore”), health care, and economic growth. He’s also in favor of marijuana legalization — there’s a “Legal Marijuana Now” candidate on the ballot who’s doing zero campaigning and appears to give not a single shit about the actual race, but filed and is on the ballot. (There was also a third-party candidate on the ballot in 2016, a Libertarian who got over 2,000 votes.) The incumbent opposed the Alex Smith Insulin Affordability Act (until his party leaders told him to vote for it.) Donate to Aric / volunteer for Aric.
SD 5 is near Grand Rapids. The Democrat just barely lost in 2016. Rita is hampered by having two weed candidates on the ballot, one of whom is 100% a Republican who’s deliberately running in the hopes of being a spoiler. Rita supports universal broadband, rural economic development, and a higher minimum wage. She also supports legalizing cannabis, so if that’s an important issue for you, you should absolutely suppose the Democrat who might win over the Republican running as a “legal marijuana” candidate or the perennial weirdo candidate running for “grassroots.” The incumbent, by the way, is this fucking guy (the one in the video, not the person Tweeting — Justin Tweeted that video out but took it down after he got ratioed because OF COURSE HE DID). Donate to Rita / Volunteer for Rita.
Senate District 20 is south of the metro area and includes Northfield and New Prague. This was a very close race in 2016 (and went for the Democrat in 2012), but like Rita, Jon is hampered by the presence of a Republican running as a “Grassroots – Legalize Cannabis” candidate. Jon Olson is a retired Navy Intelligence Officer who became his father’s caregiver while his father was dying of Alzheimer’s. His Issues pages include a section under the heading “Common-Sense Fairness” that talks about policing reforms, immigration reform, housing, and fair elections. Donate / Volunteer.
LONGER SHOT, BUT POTENTIALLY WINNABLE RACES
Senate District 26 is in Rochester. Aleta Borrud is a doctor who supports universal health care access, police accountability, and pushing back against GOP divisiveness. Her opponent brags about endorsement from a group called “Minnesotans for Affordable Health Insurance,” which I found on Facebook but absolutely nowhere else, so who the hell knows who they are other than “a group, or maybe just one guy, who knows, but WOW do they hate the idea of people with pre-existing conditions doing anything other than just fucking dying.” Donate / Volunteer.
Senate District 25 is in Rochester. Sara Flick is a farmer’s daughter and a first-generation college graduate. Her priorities include health care, family leave, and data-driven policies. The incumbent is a retired doctor who nonetheless was agitating to end Governor Walz’s emergency orders all the way back in June. Donate to Sara / volunteer for Sara.
SD 55 is in Shakopee. Sahra is Somali-American (she was born in NYC) and works in the mental health field. Sahra’s top issues include racial equity, the environment, and better job opportunities. Donate / Volunteer.
SD 34 is in Maple Grove and this district went strongly for Tim Walz, despite having been pretty Republican in 2016. Bonnie highlights racial and social justice and police reform as major priorities; her opponent has been a huge roadblock in instituting any accountability for police officers at all. Donate / Volunteer
Senate District 21 is in southeast Minnesota; Ralph has a map on his website. He’s a 4th-generation farmer and a solar energy entrepreneur. His top three issues are health care, climate, and economic development (especially broadband) in rural Minnesota. You can donate either through ActBlue or PayPal, which is a plus for people who are annoyed by ActBlue. You can also volunteer.
Reed Perkins e-mailed me to make a case for his race — while the Democrat was trounced rather thoroughly in 2016, this was a blue district as recently as 2012, and he’s working hard to reach out to voters. He’s a former science teacher and a military spouse — his wife is an Air Force officer. One of his first policy points talks about combating disinformation and false Internet rumors about COVID. He has some detailed policies to benefit rural Minnesota, including rural broadband, Right to Repair laws (critically important to small farmers), and the elimination of Daylight Savings Time (I would be fine with DST if we just stayed on it. Or Standard Time if we just stayed on it! Changing our clocks around 2x a year is terrible!) He did a Reddit AMA a while back. Donate here. To volunteer, send an e-mail: perkinsforMN1@gmail.com.
DFL INCUMBENTS WHO NEED SUPPORT
SD58 is in Lakeville, and Matt won election in 2016 despite his district overall going for Trump. The Republicans would really like to beat him. Matt has a sense of humor and a strikingly good social media presence. Donate / Volunteer.
Senate District 53 includes Woodbury, Oakdale, Landfall, and Maplewood. Susan Kent is an incumbent, but held her district very narrowly in 2016 so Republicans are putting a lot of money into her opponent’s campaign. Her opponent was mayor of Woodbury, and has a remarkably content-free website, Facebook, and Twitter; it’s almost like she’d rather just run on anything other than her actual party’s actual platform. Donate / Volunteer.
Senate District 56 is in the south suburbs (Lakeville, Burnsville, Savage). Lindsey supports protecting the environment, properly funding education and public higher education statewide, and allowing anyone who wants to to buy into MNCare. The incumbent is a homophobic bigot who opposed marriage equality; he also said that legislation requiring that men and women be paid the same amount for the same job would be special privileges for women. Donate / Volunteer.
CANDIDATES WHO NEED VOLUNTEERS (you can certainly donate, but I’ve been told they’re doing OK for cash right now — but would really love more volunteers)
Senate District 44 includes Plymouth and part of Minnetonka and went 50.2/49.8 in 2016. The Republican who barely won is not running again this year; it’s an open seat. Ann supports criminal justice reform, action on climate change, healthcare access, and for society to be accessible and equitable for disabled people. Her opponent doesn’t like the way Donald Trump says the quiet parts loud but gosh does he ever love his court nominees. Sign up to volunteer here.
Did I skip your favorite? Add them in the comments! If the race in that district was really not at all close in 2016, thought, I would encourage you to make a case for them and not just drop a link — tell me and my readers why you think they’ve got a shot. You can look up Minnesota Senate Districts (and see the election results from 2016 and 2012) over on Ballotpedia.
Don’t forget to take advantage of the PCR. You can find the PCR form here. It really is an extremely simple form to fill out.
If you are a Minnesota resident, once a year you can donate $50 to a campaign and have it refunded by the government. Eligible races include people running for the Minnesota House or Senate, Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and State Auditor. You can also donate it to a political party. Note that you can’t use the PCR to donate to Amy or Tina, or to city or county races, because this is usable for people in state-level races and political parties only. (You can still donate to them! You just can’t then get that money refunded.) Also note that
you have to pick one candidate for the whole $50. I mean, you can donate less, if that’s what works for you, but you can’t give $10 to five people and send in five forms — you can only send in one you can only send in one form: if you donate $10 each to five people, you have to send in all the receipts together, with a single form.
You’ll want a receipt, which you send in with this form by postal mail. A couple of weeks later, you’ll get a check for $50.
I live in a safe DFL district: in 2016, my DFL representative got almost 75% of the vote. So my question was, which House races might be on the cusp? Where could I donate my $50 where it might do some real good? We need to swing 11 seats to take the Minnesota House for the DFL, and that seems eminently do-able, if we donate and volunteer. But where to target?
MinnPost made this question a whole lot easier to answer with this excellent overview of all the races. But here are my picks: all of these were races where it was 55/45 or closer in 2016 (okay, I picked a couple seats that were 56/44, due to other factors), where the Democrat seems like they have a shot, and where there’s a website set up so you can donate online.
(Let me just add, regarding my brief write-ups for each candidate — when I say they highlighted certain issues, that mostly means they put them first, or they caught my eye as being a relatively unusual or specific idea. Most covered additional issues on their websites.)
If did this based almost entirely on how close the vote was last time; there are sometimes other reasons to believe that a candidate has a good shot. Feel free to leave a comment if I left out one of your favorites.
Donate to Swing
Minnesota House District 5A
John Persell is running to re-take this seat; he lost narrowly in 2016, 54%-46%. From his site: “Since graduating from Bemidji State University, I’ve had a long career as a water quality specialist dedicated to making sure our children and grandchildren can enjoy clean water. I believe the best way for Democrats to regain the House is to fight for a progressive agenda built on social and economic justice for every Minnesotan.”
Minnesota House District 5B
Pat Medure is running. He is a former Sheriff and school board representative running on a platform of government transparency, educational excellence, and economic diversification. This district went 54/42 last time, with a Green candidate taking most of the balance.
Minnesota House District 14A
Aric Putnam is running. He teaches at St. John’s/St. Ben’s, and his wife is a school principal; not surprisingly, education is the first issue he mentions. He also talks about elder care, economic development, health care, and constituent services. District 14A is in St. Cloud, MN, and went 55/45 in 2016.
Minnesota House District 14B
Dan Wolgamott is running. He’s a realtor and high school football coach. The Republican has been in office since 1994, but had a razor thin margin of victory in 2016: 51/49. This district is in St. Cloud. Dan is running on a solidly progressive platform, including a ban on so-called “conversion therapy,” paid parental leave, and allowing anyone who wants to buy into MinnesotaCare.
Minnesota House District 21A
Lori Ann Clark is running. She is a small business owner who came to politics by way of her Indivisible group. Her priorities include affordable housing and child care (which she frames as key economic development issues), health care, rural broadband, and gun safety. The Republican incumbent was first elected in 2016 with a 55/45 margin.
Minnesota House District 28B
Thomas Treehus is running. He’s highlighting health care, farming, rural broadband and transportation issues. He ran in 2016 against the incumbent and is running again; in 2016, this district went 55/45.
Minnesota House District 32B
Jeff Peterson is running. The Republican incumbent was elected in a 2017 special election, 53/47 (defeating a different candidate). Jeff is a carpenter and school board member. One of his children was born with a heart problem: “Their family quickly learned what it’s like to make choices between paying for medical bills or their mortgage.” He highlights education, economic opportunities, and affordable health care.
Minnesota State House District 34B
Kristin Bahner is running. Kristin is an IT consultant and entrepreneur, and came into politics after helping to organize the Minnesota Women’s March in 2016. Her website highlights education (including universal Pre-K and helping schools to hire more teacher’s aides); the environment; and economic security (including livable wages). This district went 56/44 in 2016.
Minnesota House District 37B
Amir Joseph Malik is running. He is a lawyer from Illinois who now lives in Blaine, and emphasizes living-wage jobs, health care, the property tax burden on seniors, and education. Over on his Facebook page he has a post up saying that people who wear the Confederate flag to the Minnesota State Fair are spitting on the graves of Minnesota veterans (I like this guy) although as a constitutional rights attorney he recognizes their right to be assholes. This district had a razor-thin margin in 2016 (50.26/49.52, or 168 votes), and the Republican incumbent is utterly reprehensible — possibly the comment about Confederate flags was a subtweet. GO DONATE TO THIS GUY.
Minnesota House District 38B
Ami Wazlawik is running. It went 57/43 last time, but this is an open seat. Ami went to St. Olaf College and did a stint in AmeriCorps; now she works for the White Bear Lake school district. Her website highlights her support for Marty’s Minnesota Health Plan; solving the achievement gap; and protecting the environment.
Minnesota House District 42A
Kelly Moller is running. She’s a prosecutor who was inspired to go to law school after hearing her friends’ stories about sexual assault, and she works in the Hennepin County Attorney’s office. On her website, she highlights education (making sure students have mental health support; schools can meet the needs of students with disabilities; and college is made more affordable); health care (allowing anyone to buy into MinnesotaCare); environmental protection; jobs and transportation (including collective bargaining rights). This was an extremely close race in 2016, decided by 125 votes.
Minnesota House District 44A
Ginny Klevorn is running. She’s a business owner and professional mediator who has worked as a guardian ad litem in juvenile court. Her website highlights education (predictable funding that keeps pace with inflation — you’d think this would be obvious, wouldn’t you?); health care (she wants to allow Minnesota residents to buy into the same health plan legislators get); and support for small businesses. She is trying again against the Republican incumbent. This district went 54/46 in 2016.
Minnesota House District 49A
Heather Edelson is running. She is a psychotherapist who was a first-generation college graduate (after what sounds like a very difficult childhood; she describes her mother as “loving but strong-willed” and she moved out at 16). She has also volunteered as a guardian ad litem in child-protection cases. She talks about the usual issues (education, health care, seniors) with a strong emphasis on mental health issues, since she’s coming from that background. (Under “Gun Safety,” she includes, “Support initiatives to help increase student mental health service access in schools, to improve awareness of mental illness, and to improve outcomes.”) This district was 51/49 in 2016.
Minnesota House District 52B
Ruth Richardson is running. She’s a black woman, so if you’re skimming this list overwhelmed by the white-bread-ness of most of the candidates, go donate to her (or to Amir Malik). She comes from a large blue collar family and worked three jobs to put herself through law school. Her website highlights gun safety legislation; better school funding and universal Pre-K; union support; and reproductive rights. In 2016, this race was decided by 121 votes.
Minnesota House District 54A
Anne Claflin is running. She is a research scientist for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and not surprisingly, her signature issue is water. (Instead of an “Issues” page, she has a “Clean Water” page. Her Twitter feed is also heavily water-focused.) This district went 52/48 in 2016.
Minnesota House District 54B
Tina Folch is running. She works in government, doing strategic planning. Her website highlights infrastructure, affordable higher education, and affordable health care. She also mentions protecting local government control. (So, the right of cities like Minneapolis to impose their own minimum wage ordinance.) This district went 55/45 in 2016.
Minnesota House District 55A
This is an open seat. Brad Tabke is running. He’s a former mayor of Shakopee who has a “Manifesto” instead of an issues page, where he highlights workforce development, a transportation system, affordable housing, and education. He also talks about working to reduce racial disparities. (“It is unconscionable to me that Minnesota can simultaneously rank second best in the nation for raising a family while also being second worst in the nation for racial inequities.”) This district went 56/44 in 2016, but it’s an open seat, which I think makes it potentially a pickup.
Minnesota House District 56B
Alice Mann is running. She is a family-practice doctor who immigrated to Minnesota from Brazil when she was a child. In addition to working at the Lakeville Family Health Clinic, she’s done volunteer stints providing medical care in Puerto Rico after Maria, and in a Syrian refugee camp. Not surprisingly, her website emphasizes health care policy, as well as education and affordable childcare. This district went 53/48 in 2016.
Minnesota House District 57B
John Huot is running. He has a particularly interesting bio: he lost his older brother in the Vietnam War, then his mother to cancer, and since his father was unable to care for him alone, he was raised by an older sister. He was befriended by a predator priest who molested him, and he was one of the first in Minnesota to receive a settlement. As an adult, he became a firefighter/EMT, worked for thirty years in emergency services, started a flower shop that failed, and is now a realtor. His website emphasizes living wages and union organizing; affordable health care that does not depend on an employer; environmental protection (he’s currently on the Community Advisory Council to the Pine Bend Refinery); veteran services (he notes that his father had PTSD from his service); and public safety. He also ran in 2016; that race went 54/46.
Donate to Hold
These are races where a Democrat currently holds the seat, but it was very close last time, and you should consider donating because we will also need to hold swing seats if we want to take the House!
Minnesota House District 19A
This is currently held by a Democrat who is not running again. Jeff Brand is the DFL candidate this year. His platform emphasizes transportation, education, agriculture, and child care. The district went 53/47 in 2016. The Republican (who also ran last time) is pro-tobacco (seriously!) and wants to deregulate day cares (I mean, he’s probably correct that there’s be less of a day care shortage if fewer expectations like “don’t leave the Tide Pods where the kids can eat them” were imposed on day care providers, but I’m not sure that’s a great solution here?)
Minnesota House District 20B
Again: currently a Democratic seat, but the incumbent legislator is not running again. Todd Lippert is running. He’s a UCC Minister and has been very involved with ISAIAH, which is a left-wing Christian organizing group. He highlights health care and “the caring economy” (child care, elder care, end-of-life care); education; and clean energy. This district went 54/46 last time.
Minnesota House District 25B
Duane Sauke is the incumbent. A former public school teacher, he narrowly won this seat for the first time in 2016 (52/48). He is highlighting civility, education (including early childhood education, and lowered tuition for public university students), and economic development (including affordable housing and livable wages).
Minnesota House 37A
Erin Koegel is the incumbent. She was elected for the first time in 2016, and the vote went 47/45/8, with the 8% being taken by a Libertarian who doesn’t appear to be in the race this time. Her website highlights transportation, small business development, and education.
Minnesota House District 48A
Laurie Pryor is the incumbent. She was first elected in 2016; the race went 52/48. Her website emphasizes gun safety laws; better regulation of assisted living facilities; a hands-free cell phone law; and requiring pharmaceutical companies to pay to help solve the problem of opiate addiction.
Minnesota House District 57A
This was Erin Maye Quade’s district, which she won fairly narrowly (52/48) in 2016. Robert Bierman is running. He’s a small business owner. His website emphasizes education (including increasing access to trade schools, magnet schools, and internship programs); environmental issues; health care (negotiating lower prescription drug costs and expanding access to MinnesotaCare); and gun safety (he supports funding public health research).
Bonus Races to Donate To
This was Michelle Fischbach’s district until she got yanked out to serve as Lieutenant Governor. She was initially pretty cranky about this, then decided she liked the job, and ran as Tim Pawlenty’s running mate. Then (SURPRISE!) he lost in the primary.
Anyway, this is a serious long-shot race: Michelle Fischbach won with 69% of the vote in 2016. But if the Democrats can take it, that would flip the Senate. This race qualifies for the PCR.
Dave Hutch is running against aggressively assholish Trump-supporting racist, Rich Stanek. Hennepin County overwhelmingly went for Clinton over Trump — 63% to 28% overall, and even most of the suburban precincts are blue. I think Dave Hutch has a real shot here if he has the resources to make sure people know what they’re getting in Stanek vs. from him. This race is not eligible for the PCR.
A Tweet from February 2020 suggesting places to donate this year: