John Hoffman, vice chair of the Anoka-Hennepin School Board, won Senate District 36 with a comfortable margin over his opponent, incumbent Sen. Benjamin Kruse, R-Brooklyn Park. District 36 covers Brooklyn Park north of 85th Avenue, as well as Champlin and part of Coon Rapids. Kruse was elected in 2010.
Hoffman received 22,197 votes, or 53.10 percent, compared to Kruse’s 19,523 votes, or 46.70 percent. There were 81 write-in ballots.
“To win by that wide a margin in an area that was pretty 50-50 tells me that the independents and the undecided voters were saying ‘fix this budget problem,’” Hoffman said. “That’s going to be a priority.”
On the campaign trail Hoffman often heard people complain about the gridlock and budget problems, he said.
He clearly remembers one Republican voter saying, “I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat — will you just get something done?”
Hoffman promised to do that.
“We’re done finger-pointing,” Hoffman said. “Let’s get Minnesota back on the map.”
In addition to the budget, Hoffman said addressing property-tax disparities will be another of his priorities.
Hoffman’s victory surprised Kruse, who said he’s not yet certain whether he will run for office again.
Kruse doesn’t think the Republican losses in the region represent a permanent shift.
“I think that it’s a general mentality right now,” he said. “Folks are frustrated with the way things are going. … We have a tendency to split tickets. … I believe next election cycle you will see it swing back.”
Hoffman seemed to agree.
“It’s not a wave,” he said. “A lot of it was a switch back.”
Hoffman believes Republicans and independent voters helped put him and other Democrats in office because they don’t like how things are going.
But Jeffrey Baumann, chair of the Senate District 36 Republican Party, is skeptical of Democratic gains.
“I don’t believe the results,” he said. “My gut tells me that these were fraudulent.”
As evidence, Baumann points to the extremely high voter turnout compared to the number of voters registered at 7 a.m. Election Day.
In Brooklyn Park, for example, several precincts had greater than 100 percent turnout compared to the number of voters registered at 7 a.m.
In precinct E4-O, there were 1,218 voters registered at 7 a.m. There were 1,304 votes cast for President in the precinct, which is a turnout of about 107 percent. In precinct C8 there were 1,662 voters registered at 7 a.m. Election Day and 1,740 votes cast for President. That’s a turnout of about 104.7 percent.
Baumann knows these numbers don’t prove fraud, because they don’t account for same-day registration. But he says the high numbers suggest many of the same-day registrations were fraudulent.
“When they attempt to confirm these registrations, they darn well better be able to demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of these are legitimate,” he said.
Hoffman said historically there isn’t a lot of fraud in the state. Even if there were fraud, he doubted it would be enough to sway the results. But he said any discussion of fraud should take place after the verification process was complete and canvassing boards reviewed results.
“Let’s get the facts and data in front of us and not make any assumptions,” he said.