59 Minnesota lawmakers aren't seeking re-election, most since 1970

It'll be a new-look Minnesota Legislature in 2023.

A total of 59 members between the House and Senate are not seeking re-election to their current seats this year, more than one-fourth of the Legislature's 201 members. That is the highest number since at least 1970, according to Legislative Reference Library data.

The breakdown of retirements is generally evenly split between the parties - 32 Republicans, 27 Democrats and two independents are not running for their current seats. Not all are leaving politics: several members of the House are running for Senate seats, while a handful are running for local offices.

Redistricting is the biggest reason for the wave of departures. The Minnesota Supreme Court's special panel paired several lawmakers into new districts. Unlike members of Congress, Minnesota lawmakers must live in their districts, forcing these paired lawmakers into a decision: run against a fellow member, move, or retire.

Senate DFL Leader Melisa Lopez Franzen was among those who decided to retire. The Edina lawmaker was paired in redistricting with state Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park.

"It’s been an honor to get to know you over the last 10 years," Lopez Franzen said to her constituents during Senate retirement speeches last week, "and I’m not moving."

Redistricting has always led to more retirements, but this year's wave is bigger than in previous decades. In 2012, 49 members didn't seek re-election. There were 47 in 2002, 33 in 1992, 50 in 1982, and 54 in 1972.

Retiring lawmakers noted additional strains in recent years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"This place is about relationships, and I think the last two years it’s been very difficult for us to build those relationships," said Senate President Dave Osmek, R-Mound.

The 23 senators who aren't seeking re-election have more than 107,000 days of collective service time in the Legislature, Osmek said.

Next year's freshman class could be the biggest in recent history, depending on how many lawmakers who are running for re-election lose this fall.