Republican Anne Neu wins special election for Minnesota House seat
Republican Anne Neu won a special election for a Chisago County legislative seat Tuesday, dashing Democratic hopes that voter reactions to President Donald Trump would help them win a right-leaning House district.
Neu beat DFL candidate Laurie Warner by 6 percentage points in the Valentine's Day election, carrying 53 percent of the vote to Warner's 47 percent. It was the first Republican-held seat up for election since Trump's Jan. 20 inauguration.
Ordinarily, Neu would have been heavily favored to win — Trump took about 60 percent of the district's vote in November. But with special elections often unpredictable, Republicans didn't take anything for granted.
"I'm grateful to Chisago County residents for their support and trust to be their new voice in the legislature," Neu said in an emailed statement. "I'm eager to roll up my sleeves and get to work with my House colleagues working to make health care more affordable, cut taxes for families, and build a budget that respects Minnesota taxpayers."
Neu's victory gives Republicans a 20-seat majority in the Minnesota House, their second-largest in the modern era.
Neu's victory marks a step out into the limelight for a woman who has long worked behind the scenes on political campaigns.
"I never really saw myself on this side of an election," said Neu, a Republican activist and campaign worker. "When this opportunity came ... I thought, it's time. It's time for me to do this in a different way, to step up and try to be an advocate for the people of Chisago County and for conservative values."
She says she'll focus on cutting taxes and trying to improve Minnesota's individual health insurance market, where premiums have soared in recent years.
By winning, Neu beat Warner in her second bid for the District 32B seat. A former Duluth City Council member before moving to North Branch a decade ago, Warner's top campaign issue was increasing school funding.
Both candidates raised and spent more than $25,000 on their campaigns, according to reports filed with the state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. Most of their spending went to mail sent to voters' homes.
AN UNUSUAL ELECTION
Tuesday's election came about because of an unusual situation. Just two months before the November 2016 general election, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that incumbent Rep. Bob Barrett didn't live in the district and was ineligible to run.
Because the decision came so close to the election, there wasn't enough time under state law to replace Barrett on the ballot. Instead, the Supreme Court ruled that the November election wouldn't count for District 32B. The seat would remain vacant until February.
District 32B has been comfortably Republican in recent elections. Barrett beat Warner by 10 points in 2014. In both 2014 and 2016, other Republican candidates up and down the ballot won by similar margins. But it's not impossible for Democrats to win there in a favorable environment: In 2012, Barrett squeaked out a victory by fewer than 2 percentage points, and DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar won in a landslide.
TURNOUT LOW, BUT BETTER
Tuesday's special election saw about 25 percent of the district's registered voters vote — much lower than the November election, when about 70 percent of registered voters in the district cast ballots.
That lower turnout is normal for special elections, since they take place at unusual times of the year and don't coincide with higher-profile state and national races. This can make special elections less predictable than normal races.
But Tuesday's race wasn't a normal special election. Because it was technically a continuation of the November election, people who voted early or absentee in November were automatically sent ballots for Tuesday.
So 25 percent of District 32B voters was actually much higher than the turnout in a pair of special elections last February, when between 10 percent and 20 percent of voters cast ballots.