As Habitat has shared over the past few months, elections are an important way for individuals and communities to make their voices heard. And Minnesotans made their voices heard in the 2020 elections! Our statewide voter turnout was just shy of 80%, an impressive statistic that demonstrates our civic engagement as first in the nation.
The outcomes of the 2020 elections will greatly impact the work that we do to create, preserve, and promote affordable homeownership and advance racial equity in housing. Our newly elected lawmakers will have many significant issues on their minds as they begin their work next year, including COVID-19 pandemic relief, economic recovery, budget setting, and redistricting. Here’s our analysis of where the 2020 elections results landed and how they will impact our work.
The 2020 race for United States President dominated public narrative at the federal level. After results gradually came in throughout the country, former Vice President Joe Biden gained the required 270 electoral votes and won the presidency, defeating incumbent President Donald Trump.
In the Senate, Minnesota Senator Tina Smith kept her seat, while Senator Amy Klobuchar was not on the ballot this year. The Senate maintained its Republican majority, though races for both senators from Georgia are still in play. In the House of Representatives, Minnesota voters elected 7 of 8 incumbent members of Congress, including Jim Hagedorn (District 1), Angie Craig (District 2), Dean Phillips (District 3), Betty McCollum (District 4), Ilhan Omar (District 5), Tom Emmer (District 6), and Pete Stauber (District 8). Representative Collin Peterson (District 7) lost to former Lieutenant Governor Michelle Fischbach, flipping his district to Republican control. The U.S. House maintained its Democratic majority, though the margin narrowed.
Habitat has received ongoing bipartisan support from our Congressional delegation. We have met with our elected leaders and their staff in Washington DC and in their districts back home, in formal legislative meetings and out on build sites. We will track both policy and funding proposals from the new administration, keeping our ears tuned to the need for investments in the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) budget and for AmeriCorps. We expect our new legislators to fund federal homeownership programs like CDBG, HOME, and SHOP at consistent or increased levels in the coming years. In addition, we will continue to advocate for legislation in another COVID stimulus package like the Housing Assistance Fund to help states provide mortgage assistance for low-income homeowners and the WORK NOW Act to help nonprofits maintain stability during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Advocates from Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and other MN Habitat affiliates met with MN Senator Tina Smith (fourth from right) at Habitat on the Hill D.C. in 2019.
At the state level, Minnesota remained the only state legislature in the country with split party control. Like the federal level, both Minnesota legislative bodies stayed status quo, though the margins tightened in both chambers. In the House, Democrats retained a slim majority of 70-64, with Republicans gaining five seats. In the Senate, Republicans kept an even slimmer majority of one vote, with an overall split of 34-33.
Despite leadership challenges, each party will have the same leaders in both bodies in 2021. However, Democratic Senator David Tomassoni was elected the new Senate President for the remainder of the year, replacing Republican Senator Jeremy Miller. This is the first time in Minnesota history that the Senate President is from the minority party, in a move to theoretically prepare for any changes in the executive branch if state elected officials are appointed to positions in the new federal administration.
As at the federal level, Habitat has strong supporters in the state legislature on both sides of the aisle, and we look forward to developing relationships with newly elected leaders and building new champions for affordable homeownership. The state is facing a significant budget deficit due to COVID-19 in the coming biennium, and Governor Tim Walz and the legislature are responsible for setting the state budget in the coming session to avoid a government shutdown. While Republicans maintain control of the Senate, the prospect of tax increases to account for the deficit is low. Instead, we expect the deficit to be solved through budget cuts, illuminating a need for legislators to compromise as they make difficult decisions this year.
Members of the MN Legislature from both parties came together for Twin Cities Habitat's first ever Red Blue Build in 2019.
Habitat will continue to elevate affordable homeownership among our Congressional delegation and state legislators. Sign up for action alerts and look for upcoming opportunities to advocate for our legislative agenda in 2021.