Minnesota will have nation's only divided state legislature, report says

Minnesota will have the country's only divided state legislature come January, another sign of an increasingly polarized state.

Democrats won 18 seats to regain control of the state House, while Republicans won a special election to keep a one-seat majority in the Senate.

The divide will pose an immediate challenge to Gov.-elect Tim Walz, who campaigned on a message of "One Minnesota." The state's urban and rural areas are growing further apart politically, with the Metro turning blue and Greater Minnesota more red.

"We’re going to see a significant partisan divide and perhaps gridlock in terms of Minnesota politics," said David Schultz, a Hamline University professor.

Democrats won 16 state House seats in the Twin Cities suburbs alone, helped by Walz's strong performance.

Walz won the seven-country Metro by 359,000 votes over Republican Jeff Johnson, a margin nearly three times as large as the 131,000-vote spread Gov. Mark Dayton enjoyed over Johnson in 2014.

Walz lost Greater Minnesota by 64,000 votes, performing slightly worse in rural areas than Dayton four years earlier. On Election Night, Walz had a message for his political opponents.

"I think it’s very important in a night like this, sending a message to our business leaders, sending a message to folks who may not agree with us. I need to be the governor for them too. I need to listen to what they have to say. Bring ‘em in," Walz said in an interview.

It's the first time since 1914 that only one U.S. state will have a divided legislature, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said he spoke with Walz by phone Wednesday morning. The two men did not talk about issues, but instead how they might work together, Gazelka said.

"If Gov.-elect Walz is genuine about that (One Minnesota), then we can find some things that we can do," he said. "If you can trust the other person -- even if you disagree passionately on the issues -- their word, if you can trust that, you can get some things done."

Gazelka said he did not think Tuesday was the result of a blue Democratic wave, instead a "course correction you see in a midterm election" against the party in power.

Walz was scheduled to speak to reporters Thursday morning for the first time since leaving DFL headquarters on Election Night.

Senate Republicans and House Democrats are scheduled to hold leadership elections later Thursday in separate caucus meetings at the Capitol.

Schultz said challenges await both parties as key issues, including a state budget, loom in 2019.

"What we’re going to see is either compromise – which I think is unlikely – or both parties already setting up for the 2020 legislative elections," he said.