Officials guesslow turnout forstate primaries

Chris Vetter

One of the seemingly forgotten steps in the Minnesota political process is the primary leading up to the general election.
Although Minnesota Republicans and Democrats both seem to have picked their candidates for the U.S. Senate race — making the Sept. 10 primary almost a formality in the selection process for those candidates — several judicial and 42 state legislative races will also be decided by the Sept. 10 primaries.
In state House District 59B, Republicans Tom Gromacki and Don Aldrich will face off. The winner will move to the general election to face incumbent Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, who is running unopposed in her party’s primary.
House District 59B includes all of the East and West Bank campuses, except for Middlebrook Hall.
Aldrich and others fear that people will stay away from the polls because there isn’t a close primary race for the governor or the senate.
“It will greatly reduce the amount of potential voters,” Aldrich said. “There could be no reason to head to the polls for most people.”
Aldrich said he wasn’t too worried about the effect of a small turnout, however. He said he is confident that he will win.
Gromacki, a College of Liberal Arts junior, said a smaller turnout makes the race easier to manage.
But people who would only turn out to vote in a prominent senate race and vote in the state House race without knowing the candidates could hurt one’s candidacy, he said.
District 59B has had extremely poor primary turnout in recent years. According to figures from the state secretary’s office, only 17.7 percent of qualified voters in 59B went to the polls in 1994, compared with 26.8 percent statewide.
Aldrich said the low turnout in the primary is compounded by changes that occur in the district between the time of the primary and the time of the general election, when University students return for fall classes.
“This district is so unique because it changes so radically from primary to general election,” Aldrich said. “One-third of the (people in the) district are University students. It is a different group that votes in the general election.”
Gromacki said the early primary, held before students return for the fall, hurts his chances in the primary.
“This is my greatest drawback,” Gromacki said. “The people who know and care about University issues won’t be here to vote.”
Aldrich, 44, said he was confident that he can win the primary.
“I believe Tom is too conservative,” Aldrich said. “He’s out of touch with this district.”
Aldrich, a lawyer and 1977 University graduate, is supported by Fifth Congressional District candidate Jack Uldrich and state Rep. Peggy Leppik, R-Golden Valley.
Although the 59B race is key to the University, the race for the U.S. Senate seat, currently held by Democrat Paul Wellstone, is even more important. Republican Rudy Boschwitz, the clear front-runner for his party’s nomination, is looking beyond the primary, toward his general election vote against Paul Wellstone.
“We feel very confident,” said John Ullyot, Boschwitz’s press secretary. “It is clear the general election will be between Boschwitz and Wellstone. Rudy and Paul don’t face much competition (from within their parties).”
Republican candidate Steve Young said Boschwitz shouldn’t be so confident.
“I feel like David going up against Goliath,” Young said. “The bad news is that you feel intimidated. The good news is that David won.”
Young said he can win the primary by getting the undecided voters and former Bert McKasy supporters to vote for him. McKasy dropped out of the race July 24th.
Paul Wellstone has three challengers in the primary, but it appears that Wellstone will be nominated. Democrats Dick Franson and Ole Savior of Minneapolis and Ed Hansen of Shoreview have filed to compete against Wellstone in the primary.
Primary winners will advance to the general election Nov. 5.
Unregistered eligible voters can register to vote up to and including the day of the primary, said Joyce Swadner, the director of the Minneapolis Office of Elections and Voter Registration.
To be eligible to vote in Minnesota, citizens must be over the age of 18, live in Minnesota a minimum of 20 days before the election, and not have a criminal conviction that would make them ineligible.
An easy way to register for the primary is to preregister. This can be done at any library, police station, or fire station. Citizens do not need a driver’s license to preregister, but they must go through the preregistration process before Wednesday to vote in the primary.
Registration after Wednesday can only be done at the citizens’ polling places, and citizens must bring their drivers’ licenses.
Absentee ballots are currently available for the primary. Voters can pick them up in person at a preregistration location.