Back in 1952, Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stephenson were vying for the presidency, and Elmer Anderson and Orville Freeman were seeking the governor post. The state primary drew just over 34% of Minnesota's eligible voters to the primary polls. Sixty years later, the state primary on August 14 saw only 9 percent participation (albeit with no governor race this year), the second lowest turnout for a state primary since Eisenhower was on the ticket. What we know for sure is that there is little to discern from this year's primary results that could shed light on the November general election. But here are some gleanings:
State Senate Races
Of the 67 Senate districts, 19 primaries were held—9 Republican and 10 DFL. Of these, 10 were held in "open seats," where no incumbent is on the ballot, due to retirement or redistricting. The Senate Republicans currently hold a 37-30 majority, meaning that if four seats flip, Senate control will return to DFL hands. This is in the realm of possible—6 seats are considered "swing" districts, where neither party holds a commanding lead based on historical precinct voter data. The two swing districts where primaries were held were:
- District 10: DFL-endorsed candidate, Tayler Stevenson, prevailed and will go on to the general election race against former Republican House member Carrie Ruud, who did not have a primary race. Stevenson is a substitute teacher and coach in Brainerd. Ruud, a realtor in Breezy Point, was formerly in the Senate but lost her election in 2006.
- District 39: GOP-endorsed Karin Housley won endorsement after stepping into the race upon Senator Ray Vandeveer's retirement, announced on the last day of candidate filings in June. Housley is a realtor from Stillwater, who ran and lost against Senator Katie Sieben in 2010. With new district lines, Housley is no longer in Sieben's district and faces former DFL House member Julie Bunn, a moderate who formerly received endorsements from the state Chamber and National Federation of Independent Businesses.
The four other districts considered swing districts based on new district lines include District 12, where Republican Torrey Westrom is the incumbent; District 32, where Republican Sean Nienow is the incumbent; District 36, where Republican Benjamin Kruse is the incumbent; and District 51, where incumbent Republican Ted Daley faces a rematch with former DFL Senator Jim Carlson.
Of the Senate primaries, two Republican races were notable from a political standpoint. Senate Tax Chair Julianne Ortman failed to receive party endorsement but handily thwarted a challenge from the right; and House Republican Connie Doepke stepped in to the open Senate race in her district but lost to GOP-endorsed David Osmek by 107 votes (Osmek was a critic of Doepke's support for the Vikings stadium).
State House Races
Twenty-one House districts had primary races, four of which were primaries for both parties, so a total of 25 primary contests were held. Of these, 11 were held in "open seats." The House Republicans currently hold a 72-62 majority, meaning that a turnover of six seats would give control to the DFL. Nine seats, two of which are open, are considered "swing" districts based on historical precinct voter data. The two swing districts where primaries were held were:
- District 2B: Hubbard County GOP-endorsed Steve Green won the primary by 102 votes, even though his opponent, David Collins, had received NRA and state Chamber endorsements. Green now goes on to challenge former three-term House DFL-er, Brita Sailer. Sailer lost her reelection bid in 2010. Green is a former greenhouse operator and currently owns a carpentry business. Sailer is an artist and activist.
- District 10B: DFL-endorsed Joe Radinovich won with 76% of the votes cast. Twenty-six-year-old Radinovich is an "Iron Ranger" and lives in Crosby, working for a labor union—the American Federation of Government Employees. He will face Republican Dale Luecka, a 62-year-old beef cattleman from Aitkin.
The remaining swing districts in the House include 12A, 14A, 16A, 21A, 26A, 44B and 51A.
The only upset in the House primaries was the loss by Steve Smith, long-time moderate Republican in Senate District 33B. Smith was often at odds with his caucus and was not endorsed by the party. Tea party candidate Cindy Pugh won with more than 70% of votes cast.