Primaries competitive, yet voter turnout low

by Megan Boldt

Even though the November election date is creeping closer, some candidates are focusing on just getting past the Sept. 12 primaries.
The primaries, contests for the respective party’s candidacy, can be relatively quiet or nonexistent — or they can be essential to the success of a certain party.
University political science professor Bill Flannigan said Minnesota has two hot primaries this year — the U.S. Senate and District Four U.S. House races.
“They are both vigorously contended and highly competitive contests,” Flannigan said.
Democratic Senate candidates include Mike Ciresi, Mark Dayton, Sen. Jerry Janezich, Rebecca Yanisch, Hal Dorland, Dick Franson, Greg Iverson and Ole Savior.
Steve Novak, Chris Coleman, Cathie Hartnett and Rep. Betty McCollum are the DFL contenders in the Fourth District.
These two primaries are critical for the DFL Party because they lay the landscape for the general election, said Karen Louise Boothe, Minnesota DFL Party communications director.
Boothe said she hopes voters realize how important these races are. She compares the primary to a hiring committee, a body selecting a job applicant.
She added no one is a shoo-in in either race.
“If there’s anything predictable about politics, it’s unpredictable,” Boothe said.
Republicans, on the other hand, do not have as many high-profile primaries this election season. Tony Sutton, executive director for the Minnesota Republican Party, said his party is more unified.
He added the Republican Party supports its endorsed candidates, and he doesn’t see the same backing in the DFL Party.
“It seems they are not willing to unify and get behind one candidate,” Sutton said.
Boothe disagreed. She said Democrats want to beat incumbent U.S. Sen. Rod Grams, R-Minn., retain the District Four U.S. House seat and regain the majority in the Minnesota House.
“Democrats in this state are unified in winning,” she said.
Sutton also said it won’t matter who the Democratic candidate will be in the U.S. Senate race. He said Grams is set on his issues and his agenda.
“We’re ready to run our campaigns regardless,” Sutton said.
Flannigan also said both federal races will be competitive regardless of who will emerge as the DFL candidate.
He said the turnout for this year’s Sept. 12 primaries is hard to predict, but Minnesota usually has a higher turnout than the rest of the nation.
Flannigan said with interesting primaries like this year’s, turnout sometimes increases, but not significantly.
“Even with interesting races, there won’t be a very high turnout,” Flannigan said.

Megan Boldt covers elections and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3235.