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Interest in Minnesota primary seems high

Minnesota governor candidates and campaign staffers listen to Kent Thisse explain rules for a candidate forum at Farmfest on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. Don Davis / Forum News Service1 / 2
Minnesota Attoirney General Lori Swanson waves as she is introduced to an overflow Farmfest crowd on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. The five major governor candidates are, from left, Tim Walz,Tim Pawlenty, Swanson, Jeff Johnson and Erin Murphy. Don Davis / Forum News Service2 / 2

REDWOOD FALLS, Minn.—Minnesotans are interested in the primary election.

Almost triple the number of early ballots have been cast compared to two years ago.

At Farmfest, southwest Minnesota's agriculture show, 1,000 seats were full, with about 600 more standing as the five major governor candidates were in the only forum to host all of them.

In Minneapolis, there are signs that an election to replace U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the No. 2 officer in the national Democratic Party, is attracting large numbers of voters in a star-studded race. And Ellison's bid for attorney general brought the spotlight onto that race.

The question is: Will the interest being expressed in campaigns result in larger turnout on Tuesday, Aug. 14.

Polling places are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

A couple of politically connected men spent much of the past week at Farmfest, and politics often was the subject.

Farmers Union President Gary Wertish said from the people he talks to, it appears both Republican and Democratic governors races are up for grabs.

"They all were knowledgeable," he said after the big five governor candidates fielded farm-related questions at the overflowing forum. "I don't think there is a clear leader."

Farm Bureau President Kevin Paap said Republican former Gov.Tim Pawlenty and Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz who serves southern Minnesota have the most experience with agriculture issues, and are "known commodities."

While Erin Murphy "is a good friend," when the St. Paul state representative picked another Twin Cities woman as running mate, it may have hurt in farm country, Paap added.

Attorney General Lori Swanson, a Democrat, may have won three statewide elections, but farmers do not deal with her much. Paap said he took Republican Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson around Farmfest last year, but did not hear from him until this year's event, so is not sure where he stands on many farm issues.

Hamline University Professor David Schultz said that a normal big greater Minnesota voter turnout would favor Walz or Swanson for Democrats, and probably Pawlenty on the Republican side.

However, he said, "if on the other hand there is strong turnout in the primary for the 5th Congressional District to replace Keith Ellison, that turnout would help Erin Murphy."

Schultz added: "If she (Murphy) were facing only one challenger I am confident she would not beat Swanson or Walz in a one-on-one contest, but in a three-way primary where the latter two split the greater Minnesota vote, Murphy has a chance."

Secretary of State Steve Simon's office reported that as of Thursday almost 87,000 Minnesotans had voted early (not counting rural residents who only vote by mail). That compares to 29,000 who voted at this time in 2016, a presidential year that normally draws more voters.

Figuring out who will show up for the primary election is an impossible task, in a large part because President Donald Trump could drive up turnout from both major political parties.

"I think even though President Trump is not on the ballot, in a way he is on the ballot, in some races, on both sides," Simon said. "His presence will be felt."

In four of the past five statewide primaries, greater Minnesota voters were more likely to participate than residents of the seven-county Twin Cities area. In three of those contests, the sheer number of greater Minnesota voters was greater than in the Twin Cities.

There are two U.S. Senate races this year. In the primary, Democrats have a contest for the final two years of Al Franken's job is gaining the most interest. The major candidates are appointed U.S Sen. Tina Smith and Richard Painter, who has made a name for himself by being a Republican (before becoming a Democrat earlier this year) who attacks President Donald Trump on cable television news channels.

The other Senate race likely will be between incumbent Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Republican Jim Newberger.

The attorney general race features five Democrats.

Also, Democrats in the northeast-east central Minnesota U.S. House district and the area centered on Minneapolis face five candidates in each race, with smaller races in several other congressional districts.

Minnesotans do an excellent job of turning out at general elections, those held in November.

Primary election turnout is rotten. From 1950 to 1970, a common turnout figure was about 30 percent. Since then, however, a common number has been in the teens. And in 2016, just 7 percent of voters turned out.

Minnesota candidates

(Primaries needed only when there is more than one candidate in a party)

U.S. Senate (full six-year term)

Republican: Jim Newberger, Rocky De La Fuente, Rae Hart Anderson, Merrill Anderson

Democrat: Amy Klobuchar(i), Leonard Richards, David Robert Groves, Stephen Emery, Steve Carlson.

Green: Paula Overby

Legal Marijuana Now: Dennis Schuller

U.S. Senate (to fill two years of Franken term)

Republican: Karin Housley, Nikolay Nikolayevich Bey, Bob Anderson

Democrat: Tina Smith, Richard Painter, Christopher Lovell Seymore Sr., Nick Leonard, Gregg Iverson, Ali Chehem Ali

Unaffiliated: Jerry Trooien

Legal Marijuana Now: Sarah Wellington

U.S. House District 1

Republican: Andrew Candler, Jim Hagedorn, Carla Nelson, Steve Williams

Democrat: Dan Feehan, Coke Minehart

U.S. House District 2

Republican: Jason Lewis(i)

Democrat: Angie Craig

U.S. House District 3

Republican: Erik Paulsen(i)

Democrat: Dean Phillips, Cole Young

U.S. House District 4

Republican: Greg Ryan

Democrat: Muad Hassan, Betty McCollum(i), Reid Rossell

Legal Marijuana Now: Susan Pendergast Sindt

U.S. House District 5

Republican: Bob Carney Jr., Christopher Chamberlin, Jennifer Zielinski

Democrat: Jamal Abdi Abdulahi, Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Bobby Joe Champion, Frank Nelson Drake, Ilhan Omar, Patricia Torres Ray

U.S. House District 6

Republican: Tom Emmer(i), A.J. Kern, Patrick Munro

Democrat: Ian Todd

U.S. House District 7

Republican: Dave Hughes, Matt Prosch

Democrat: Collin Peterson(i)

U.S. House District 8

Republican: Pete Stauber, Harry Robb Welty

Democrat: Kirsten Kennedy, Michelle Lee, Jason Metsa, Joe Radinovich, Soren Christian Sorensen

Independence: Ray Skip Sandman

Governor-lieutenant governor

Republican: Jeff Johnson-Donna Bergstrom, Matt Cruse-Thomas Loeffler, Tim Pawlenty-Michelle Fischbach

Democrat: Tim Holden-James Mellin II, Erin Murphy-Erin Maye-Quade, Ole Saavior-Chris Edman, Lori Swanson-Rick Nolan, Tim Walz-Peggy Flanagan

Libertarian: Josh Welter-Mary O'Connor

Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis: Chris Wright-Judith Schwartzbacker

Secretary of state

Republican: John Howe

Democrat: Steve Simon(i)

Independence: William Denney

State auditor

Republican: Pam Myhra

Democrat: Julie Blaha

Libertarian: Chris Dock

Legal Marijuana Now: Michael Ford

Attorney general

Republican: Robert Lessard, Sharon Anderson, Doug Wardlow

Democrat: Keith Ellison, Tom Foley, Debra Hilstrom, Matt Pelikan, Mike Rothman

Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis: Noah Johnson

Minnesota Legislature

All 134 House seats are on the ballot. The only Senate seat in front of voters is the one vacated by Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach

(i) indicates the candidate is an incumbent

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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