Top Prize In Minnesota Primary: GOP Governor Nod
WEB EXTRA: 2012 Primary Election Results Page
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Republicans were picking candidates for governor and Senate in primaries Tuesday to finalize nominations for a party trying to climb back into power after years of Democratic dominance.
The GOP races will determine challengers to Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken, both of whom are in search of second terms after narrowly winning their first ones. Democrats have a contested primary for state auditor pitting an incumbent against a well-known rival.
Two prominent state House members, one from each party, were in jeopardy. The top congressional primary was in the 6th District, where two Republicans were jockeying to become the fall front-runner to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann.
An estimated 10 to 15 percent of eligible voters are expected to go to the polls in the primary.
At Hennepin Technical College, in Eden Prairie, veteran election judges Jeffrey Kirst and Genie Williams said they'd never seen early turnout so low. Their precinct has about 1,800 registered voters, but only 28 had voted in first two hours.
"If we get 10 percent we'll be lucky here," Kirst said.
Williams noted the contrast to the general election two years ago, with the presidential race and two hotly contested ballot questions.
"We usually have them (voters) going down the hall," she said.
Three politicians and a businessman ran hard for the right to represent the GOP against Dayton.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson won the party's endorsement this spring, but it didn't clear the field — unusual for the party. Business executive Scott Honour, former House Speaker Kurt Zellers and former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert all went to a primary.
With similar messages from the candidates — cut government spending, lower taxes and reduce regulations — the race was more about style and background. Honour touted his status as an outsider. Zellers argued he had a history of standing up to Dayton. Seifert played up his rural pedigree.
Dayton was the heavy favorite on his side against challengers Leslie Davis and Bill Dahn.
Investment banker Mike McFadden campaigned as though he locked down the nomination long ago, focusing exclusively on Franken and largely ignoring competition from within the GOP.
State Rep. Jim Abeler worked for the upset, but had only a fraction of the millions McFadden raised for his campaign. Three other Republicans appeared on the ballot. McFadden, a first-time candidate, dispatched his most serious Republican rivals by winning endorsement at the party's state convention.
Franken was a virtual lock against Sandra Henningsgard, whose didn't actively campaign.
The Independence Party's endorsed candidate Kevin Terrell had four rivals.
The impending departure of Bachmann in Minnesota's solidly conservative 6th District made for a high-stakes Republican primary.
Former state Rep. Tom Emmer had the party endorsement and a big cash advantage over Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah. For Emmer, the race offered a chance to reboot a political career sidetracked by his close loss to Mark Dayton in the 2010 governor's race.
In Minnesota's south, Aaron Miller and Jim Hagedorn each sought the Republican nod to challenge four-term Democratic Rep. Tim Walz this fall. The primary was spiced by Hagedorn's entry on the grounds that Miller, the endorsed candidate, wasn't campaigning hard enough. Miller rejected the charge.
No Minnesota House members faced primary challenges.
State Auditor Rebecca Otto's job was on the line in a Democratic primary against former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza.
The two-term incumbent was heavily outspent by Entenza, who poured significant personal money into his campaign. Otto had the Democratic apparatus on her side, but Entenza had some notable supporters promoting him.
State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, Minnesota's longest-serving female elected official, confronted a significant challenge from Mohamud Noor, who was trying to become the first Somali-American to win a Minnesota statehouse seat.
Kahn was first elected in 1972, six years before Noor was born. A primary win is akin to a ticket to the Legislature in heavily Democratic Minneapolis.
In suburban Eden Prairie, Deputy House Minority Leader Jenifer Loon waited to learn if GOP voters would punish her for supporting gay marriage. Her challenger, Sheila Kihne, had the backing of a conservative family values group that fought the gay marriage push.
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