This past Tuesday was Primary Election Day in Minnesota. Despite high-profile congressional contests in southern and northeastern Minnesota and primary battles in over 40 state legislative districts, only 9% of Minnesota voters—almost a record low—turned out to decide which candidates will appear on ballots in November.
Having the party endorsement carried the day for those candidates who had received it going into the primary. In the Eighth Congressional District, former congressman and DFL-endorsed Rick Nolan received 38% of the vote in a competitive three-way race, even though runner-up Tarryl Clark outspent him four-to-one. Without the party's nod, two incumbent state legislators, including Steve Smith, the longest-serving GOP member of the Minnesota House, lost their respective races. Representative Smith (R-Mound) was trounced by political newcomer Cindy Pugh, who not only had the GOP-endorsement but is also the founder of her local chapter of the Tea Party. Having "the most conservative credentials" also garnered Mound City Council member Dave Osmek the Republican endorsement and the primary victory in Senate District 33, where he faced off against Rep. Connie Doepke (R-Orono) for the open seat.
Senate Tax Chair Julianne Ortman (R-Chanhassen) may have lacked the party's endorsement going into Tuesday's primary, but she had also blocked her opponent, local GOP activist Bruce Schwichtenberg, from getting it. Ortman handily survived the primary, garnering over 58% of the vote. She is expected to easily win re-election in the general election, as her district touts the highest Republican index in the state.
Other primary victories of note:
Senator Lyle Koenen (DFL-Clara City) won his primary battle against Willmar businessmen Larry Rice with 57% of the vote. This sets up for an incumbent-on-incumbent general election contest, where Koenen will face Senate Transportation Chair Joe Gimse (R-Willmar) in the newly configured Senate District 17.
On the Iron Range in House District 6B, three candidates competed to be the DFL successor to Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia), who represented the area for 26 years. With 53% of the vote, DFL operative Jason Metsa overcame local economic development director Lorrie Janatopoulos.
In the heavily DFL Senate District 67 on St. Paul's east side, Foung Hawj will move onto the general election (and likely the Senate) after securing victory over two other well-known Democrats in the district, Robert Humphrey and Tom Dimond.
For complete primary results, check out the Secretary of State's website.
Now that the stage is set for November, expect the campaign season to become more shrill. After a dismal showing in the 2010 elections, state Democrats are hoping to regain control of both the House and the Senate. Meanwhile, Republicans are confident the new districts and lack of enthusiasm for President Obama will help them maintain, and even grow, their majorities.
Special interests and independent expenditure groups are lining up to assist their preferred parties in this endeavor. The 2012 Fund and WinMinnesota have already accumulated over $1.3 million to support DFL candidates while MN FORWARD and Minnesota's Future have raised several hundred thousand dollars from the business community to maintain GOP control of the legislature.