Bottom Lines are our most current take on a race.
When Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe announced in early 2012 that she would not run for re-election, the best-known candidate to enter the field was former Gov. Angus King, who served two terms as an independent and opted to keep that label in the Senate race. He faced Democrat Cynthia Dill, who got no support from her party, and Republican Charles Summers in the general election. King took 53 percent of the vote to 31 percent for Summers and 13 percent for Dill. This cycle, King will get a less challenging contest than he did six years ago. The filing deadline closed March 15, producing a presumptive Democratic nominee in teacher Zak Ringelstein and a two-way GOP primary between state Sen. Eric Brakey and financial planner Max Linn. (At this writing, Brakey is challenging Linn’s eligibility). None of these candidates poses a serious threat to King. As such, the race is now rated as Solid Independent.
When Congress reconvened in early January, former Lt. Gov. Tina Smith was sworn in to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken. She will have to run in a special election in November. The seat will also be up for a full term in 2020. Smith, 59, has a background in marketing. From 2006 until 2010, she was chief of staff to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. She managed his unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2010. She then joined Dayton’s gubernatorial campaign as a senior adviser. He appointed Smith to be his chief of staff in the Governor’s office. When his Lieutenant Governor said that she would not be on the ticket in his bid for a second term, Dayton named Smith as his running mate. It is unlikely that Smith will get serious opposition in the primary. At this point, there are two announced Republican candidates: dental technician Bob Anderson and state Sen. Karin Housley. Housley is the clear frontrunner. While she is not well known yet, her last name is, at least among the state’s many hockey fans. She is married to Phil Housley, the coach of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Housley gets good reviews from those who have met with her and has potential as a candidate, and Smith is still learning the ropes in the Senate and getting acquainted with voters in her new role, but the race isn’t a Toss Up at this point. It moves to the Lean Democratic column, and it’s up to Republicans to make it more competitive.