ST. PAUL (CN) – Voters in northern Minnesota will decide in a special election Tuesday whether Republicans will expand their narrow control of the state Senate as a new Democratic governor begins his first term.
The stakes are high as Minnesotans will choose a new state senator for Senate District 11, which covers the southwest area of Duluth, a port city on Lake Superior.
The special election was called after the newly elected Democratic Governor Tim Walz appointed Tony Lourey to be his human services commissioner.
Stu Lourey – Tony Lourey’s son – is fighting to keep the seat for Democrats against Republican candidate Jason Rarick and Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate John Birrenbach.
Before the elder Lourey’s appointment to Walz’s cabinet, Republicans had just a one-seat majority in the Minnesota Senate. They hope to flip the former Democratic seat and give themselves a two-seat majority if Rarick wins.
Stu Lourey worked as a legislative aide for U.S. Senator Tina Smith and her predecessor Al Franken. His father held the seat since 2007 and his grandmother, Becky Lourey, held it from 1997 to 2007.
Though Senate District 11 has strong ties to the Democratic Lourey family, President Donald Trump won the district by 13 points in the 2016 presidential election.
According to a Star Tribune report, Republicans see the vacant seat as a rare chance to expand their narrow majority in the Senate.
In 2008, Republicans took control in a special election when Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, was elected to Senate District 13. At the time, the Senate had been split 33-33 after Republican Michelle Fischbach resigned to serve as lieutenant governor.
The winner of Tuesday’s District 11 race will serve the remaining two years of Lourey’s term, which ends in 2020, at which time all 67 seats in the Senate will be up for election.