WASHINGTON — In one of the most expensive House races in the nation, Minnesota’s 2nd District, Rep. Angie Craig defeated GOP rival Tyler Kistner early Wednesday in a tumultuous midterm that returned all of Minnesota’s incumbents to Congress.
Kistner had an early lead Tuesday evening, but lost that lead when votes that had been delayed came in from Dakota County. Craig thanked the voters of the redrawn 2nd for returning her to Washington.
“I always say, this seat does not belong to me, it belongs to the people of Minnesota’s Second Congressional District. And tonight I am grateful to have earned their support for a third term,” Craig said in a statement.
Kistner told supporters the race was not about him versus Craig, but about fighting for the people of the 2nd District.
“This (race) wasn’t for Tyler Kistner, this was for the values we’re fighting for,” said Kistner in his concession to Craig. He also said seeing a “diverse” group of supporters in the room was the “start of something great” for future elections.
Craig, who has represented the 2nd District since 2019, has always had competitive races. The district, which comprises both Twin Cities suburbs and rural areas, was represented by Republicans for 18 years before Craig won the seat.
A former executive of medical device companies and the St. Jude Medical Foundation, Craig ran on a pro choice platform, but distanced herself from President Biden and sought new funding for local police, an effort that helped her win the coveted endorsement of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.
Kistner, who never held political office before, ran on the GOP platform of limiting spending, supporting abortion restrictions and gun rights and more local control over schools.
The Craig/Kistner rematch was also characterized the enormous amount of money that poured into the race by political action committees affiliated by both parties, which flooded the airwaves with negative ads attacking both candidates.
In both 2020 and this year, there was a Legal Marijuana Now candidate in the race who died shortly before the election but whose name was still on the ballot. This year that candidate, Paula Overby, was drawing more than 3% of the vote late Tuesday.
This was the second time Craig defeated Kistner, who ran against the Democrat in 2020.
Meanwhile, Rep. Dean Phillips, D-3rd, defeated GOP challenger Tom Weiler; Rep. Betty McCollum, D-4th, handily turned back a challenge from Republican May Lor Xiong; and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-5th, defeated GOP candidate Cicely Davis.
“It has been a great night for us in the 5th,” Omar said. “This seat has never been about me. It’s been about the working mom who struggles with $20,000 worth of student debt and now has a chance to see that debt wiped out thanks to our advocacy and the work the president of the United States has done. Again, Minnesota, thank you for sending this refugee back to Congress.”
“We’ve got your back,” a crowd member yelled. “And I’ve got yours,” Omar responded.
“I worked hard this year to earn this victory,” McCollum said at the DFL victory party in Minneapolis. “I am proud to say tonight that this gives me 12 consecutive election wins.”
Rep. Tom Emmer, R-6th, also won re-election over Democrat Jeanne Hendricks.
But Emmer, the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, did not have the kind of election night he hoped to have. While the GOP had picked up some seats early Wednesday, it was too early for Republicans to claim victory of the U.S. House with the party’s margin of victory was shaping up to be much smaller than expected.
Still, Emmer told MPR News that the GOP has flipped 10 Democratic House seats early in the evening and said his party won seats it did not expect to win and other races were closer than expected.
“I don’t think you call it anything, but Republicans are taking back the majority tonight in the U.S. House,” Emmer said.
He once predicted the GOP would gain up to 50 House seats. A strong Republican showing on election night would strengthen Emmer’s bid to win an election in House GOP conference next week for the No. 3 job in leadership, that of majority whip.
Rep. Brad Finstad, R- 1st, who has only been representing the 1st Congressional District since August, won his race against former Hormel CEO Jeff Ettinger.
Ettinger, who largely self-financed his campaign, ran as a Democratic centrist, and lost to Finstad in a special election in August to fill the remainder of the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s term.
Rep. Peter Stauber, R-8th, also won in his race against Democrat Jen Schultz, a former member of the Minnesota Legislature.
House Democrats were battling strong headwinds this year. The party could lose no more than five net seats to keep their majority in the chamber and lost at least that many, although not as many as Republican leaders had expected.
Concerns about inflation and crime, the historical trend that favors the party that does not control the White House in a midterm and a number of polls predicted that there would be a “red wave” in the midterm. But that did not materialize.
“It’s definitely not a Republican wave – that’s for darn sure,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on NBC.
Republicans were made vulnerable by their support for the overturn of Roe v. Wade, which has resulted in a mass erosion of abortion rights, and voter concerns about the continued adherence of many Republican candidates to former President Trump, whose favorability rating has dropped this year. Many of the GOP candidates that fared poorly on Tuesday were strong Trump supporters.
The counting of ballots in both the House and the Senate in some states could go deep into the week leaving control of the Senate undecided and the true size of the GOP victory in the House unknown.
Democratic control of the Senate was also up in the air late Tuesday. Minnesota’s Democratic senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, were not on the ballot this year. A key Senate race in Georgia remains too close to call. If neither Sen. Raphael Warnock, the incumbent Democratic, nor GOP challenger Herschel Walker wins at least 50 percent of the vote, control of the Senate just might be determined in a runoff on Dec. 6.
MinnPost reporter Ava Kian contributed to this report.