Republican Steve Drazkowski defeated DFL candidate Linda Pfeilsticker 52.9 to 46.9 percent in a special election in House District 28B to replace former Rep. Steve Sviggum on Tuesday.
While Ron Carey, the state Republican Party Chairman characterized Drazkowski’s win as signaling “growing Republican momentum as we head into 2008,” the GOP should be cautious to read too much into this race. District 28B has voted overwhelmingly for Republican candidates in recent years.
First, Steve Sviggum won the district by an average of 28 points after redistricting in the 2002, 2004, and 2006 elections. Drazkowski—who ran for the state Senate District 28 just last fall—only won by 6 points in Tuesday’s election. Moreover, Drazkowski actually carried 28B in his state Senate run (by a 50-49 margin); as such he was the clear favorite to win the race.
Secondly, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty carried the district in both 2002 and 2006. In 2002, DFL-er Roger Moe (20.8 percent) only received only about half the votes as Pawlenty (40.7 percent), while Independence Party nominee Tim Penny received 36.7 percent. In 2006, Pawlenty beat DFL nominee Mike Hatch by 11 points—51.8 to 40.7 percent, 10 points higher than the Governor’s 1-point statewide victory margin.
Thirdly, in 2004, George W. Bush carried District 28B by nearly 10 points over John Kerry (53.8 to 44.4 percent), in a race in which Kerry won the state by 3.5 points statewide—a 13-point difference.
Fourthly, District 28B has also been much more friendly to Republican U.S. Senate candidates. In 2002, Norm Coleman defeated Walter Mondale by 7.8 points in 28B (51.8 to 44.0 percent)—5.5 points higher than his 2.2-point victory statewide. In 2006, while Amy Klobuchar carried the district, she did so by 11 points less (9.2) than her statewide margin of victory (20.1).
In short, the Republicans held what should have been a safe seat on Tuesday—but did so only by 6 points. Look at this race to portend not necessarily big Republican gains in 2008, but potential competitive races or even DFL pick-ups for any open GOP legislative seats next year.