Minnesota held their binding primaries on Tuesday August 12th, which was the last of a many-tiered nomination process. That means the November ballots are actually finalized now. Here is a recap of the races that actually made it as far as the primary, and serves as a late summer bridge between my initial and final predictions diaries.
The big race on August 12th was the GOP primary for governor. GOP endorsed candidate Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner, ran against Some Rich Dude Scott Honour (who dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into tv ads leading up the the primary), former Speaker Kurt Zellers, Former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, and perennial candidate Merrill Anderson. Johnson ended up winning the primary 30-24-21-21-4, with his winning margin coming from his home populous county. Johnson now faces the arduous task of uniting a deeply divided base and beating incumbent Mark Dayton in 11 weeks. This will be no easy task, as Dayton has outraised Johnson nearly 3:1, and Johnson is sitting on only 122k in the bank, vs. Dayton’s 847k. Additionally, Dayton has self-funding capability if he feels as though it is necessary. RCP average has this race at Dayton +10.4%. My rating on this race remains unchanged from my April edition.
Senator Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson) got dragged in against incumbent 2-term DFL Attorney General Lori Swanson, after no one else of any stature bothered to run against her. However after he received the part endorsement at the convention, perennial candidate Sharon Anderson got in as well. Anderson was not even on my radar before the primary, but she did manage to by 37% of the primary vote against Newman’s 63%. This is more of a curiosity than anything else, as Swanson is the safest Democrat on the statewide ballot in Minnesota in 2014.
This is a primary that caught me off guard a little bit. After Representative Steve Simon’s unanimous applause coronation at the DFL convention in May, I figured his two lower profile challengers would get a trivial amount of the vote. Dick Franson and Gregg Iverson both seem to be perennial primary challengers. Franson was an alderman in Minneapolis for 15 years, and has a hobby of challenging Safe DFL incumbents running for reelection, including Mark Ritchie in 2010 and Amy Klobuchar in 2012. Iverson had no political experience, but ran against Keith Ellison in 2008, 2010, and 2012. Surprisingly, Simon only won 43-29-28. I am going to keep an eye on this race, and do a little more digging on the geographic breakdown of the primary here. Either way, former Representative Doc Severson (R) will meet Simon in November after facing no primary challenger. Simon has outraised Doc Severson nearly 2:1, and is still a favorite in this race. However until I figure out this primary phenomenon, I am going to keep it at Lean D
This race had more fireworks at the convention that it did in the primary. Businessman Mike McFadden (R) ended up getting the endorsement against the unexpected contender St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg, after Senate Minority Whip Julianne Ortman failed to garner any traction as voting rounds kept going. Eventually on the 10th and final ballot McFadden go to the magic 60%, and got the official endorsement. Dahlberg, Ortman, and most of the rest of the field dropped out. However one challenger remained until the August Primary: State Representative Jime Abeler (R-Anoka). Abeler never had much of a campaign or money. Basically he was the protest vote against McFadden, and held McFadden to 72% in the primary. I saw 70% as the inflection point of where McFadden would have consolidated GOP support moving towards the general election, and it appears he mostly has. But as of late July McFadden has raised $3.4 MM compared to Franken’s $25.5 MM, with Franken holding a $4.3 to $1.4MM COH advantage. Franken holds an identical 10.4% lead in RCPs polling average, which leaves my April ranking of Likely D intact.
Incumbent DFL Auditor Rebecca Otto pissed off a significant portion of the outstate faction of her party with her grandstanding against mining in November 2013. Although up until the filing deadline, it looked like nothing was going to come of it, but at the last minute, former state legislator Matt Entenza jumped in at the filing deadline against Otto. Entenza has burned way more bridges than Otto has, and really is friendless within the party at this point. Otto performed a lot stronger in the Iron Range area than I expected, although slightly weaker than elsewhere in the state. Otto is running for her third term against small town mayor Randy Gilbert. Gilbert really has no money to speak of, with only 5k on hand, with an unpaid 18k self-loan. Otto hasn’t been tearing up the fundraising scene herself either, having 57k on hand, but she has near universal name recognition. I am tempted to move this to Safe D given Otto’s over performance in the primary, but I am not ready to put this on the same level as Swanson
This race has been an unmitigated disaster for Republicans. It started with two nobodies, Jim Hagedorn and Aaron Miller, got in against State Representative Mike Benson (R-Rochester). Entering the convention in May, Benson was the establishment candidate that had raised 80k (which is a small sum, but dwarfed what Miller and Hagedorn had rasied); Miller was a quixotic insurgent campaign running well to the left of the Republican party in general, and WAY to the left of Benson and Hagedorn; And Hagedorn was a hard-right former blogger that went by “Mr. Conservative” and was prone to inflamitory and at times racist posts. The morning of the convention, I figured Benson would win first ballot, or shortly thereafter. But after 4 ballots Benson dropped out, then at the last ballot Hagedorn withdrew as Miller somehow ended up with the nomination. Hagedorn and Benson withdrew at the convention and endorsed Miller. But right after the convention, Miller just fell off the face of the planet: He stopped raising money, he stopped making appearances, and even campaign. This infuriated Hagedorn, so Hagedorn reentered the race a little while later. That brought us to the primary on 8/12, where Hagedorn won the center vs. right primary against Miller in absentia. So that leaves Republicans running a candidate that wrote his own attack ads on his own website, had only $9,000 in the bank as of the end of July, no campaign staff, and no campaign structure of any type really. It should also be noted that Hagedorn was last seen running for office in 2010 against Walz, finishing 4th in the race to take on Walz that cycle. His campaign folded in on itself in the primary season as hints of what his previous writings included that cycle. Rest assured that Walz is going to drive the most offensive of those into the voters heads. This race was Likely D in April when Benson was in. I have moved it firmly into Safe D, with Walz likely over performing his 2008 win of 63-33.
Former State Representative Mike Obermueller (D-Eagan), Congressman John Kline’s (R) 2012 opponent, faced a token primary challenge from Michael Roberts. Roberts is a law student at Hamline University, and Sioux Indian activist. Obermueller went into the primary as a heavy favorite against the unknown Roberts, and prevailed 83-17. Obermueller now moves on to November for a rematch with Kline. Obermueller isn’t going to beat Kline barring something damning coming to light. Really, Obermueller is setting up to be first in line to run for the seat when Kline retires. This twice Obama voting district remains Likely R, same as the April rating.
Former State Representative Tom Emmer (R), who is best known as losing to Mark Dayton in the 2010 gubernatorial race, beat Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah 73-27 in the GOP primary to replace the retiring Michele Bachmann. Once Emmer entered this race, he was going to win the nomination easily. He comes from the political center of the district (Wright County), and is known as a vocal conservative firebrand. The mild mannered, but equally conservative Sivarajah never had a real chance at this race. Emmer goes forward to November against Sartell mayor Joe Perske. I had to take a double take when I found out that Sartell had a DFL mayor, as it is one of the most conservative cities around St. Cloud. That doesn’t mean Perske has a chance however, as Emmer will underperform Generic R in this district, but not nearly to the level of Bachmann. The rating for this race is unchanged, as this was the expected outcome of the convention/primary
Incumbent DFL Representative John Persell won this seat surprisingly easily (56-44) in 2012 against fellow incumbent Larry Howes (R) when their seats were merged. Persell faced the same primary opponent he faced in 2012: Lavern Pederson. Pederson just has a vendetta against Persell for some reason, but Persell prevailed 85-15, as is a prohibitive favorite GOP Upstart Phillip Nelson
Incumbent DFL Representative Carly Melin faced John Finken in the primary on August 12th for he Safe D Iron Range district. I know the Finken last name pretty well, as our families have intermarried, but I don’t know John. Melin won 80-20 over FInken
In this Dark Blue Duluth-based district, perennial GOP nominee Travis Silvers got a primary challenge from Some Dude Carla Bayerl. Silvers won 57-43, and will subsequently lose to incumbent Erik Simonson 75-25 yet again.
DFL Representative Jay McNamar is one of the most endangered incumbents this cycle, running for a second term in his 52% Romney farm-centric district. McNamar is a former small town mayor of Elbow Lake, and is facing fellow small town mayor Jay Backer, who currently is the executive of Brandon Minnesota. Backer surprisingly did poorly against a Some Dude candidate Nance Taffee 55.5-44.5. I am not sure what this means for the reason, but there may be some weakness there, as Backer was the endorsed candidate going into the primary. Both Backer and McNamar have raised a good amount of cash for this race, with McNamar sitting on 37k and Backer sitting on 16k. I still have this as Lean R, but it could move to toss-up if there is fire where this primary smoke is.
Dave FitzSimmons (R), best known for helping Democrats legalize same-sex marriage in 2013 was pushed out of office, list of the rest of his colleagues that voted that way on that particular bill. Dayton (pop. 4671) city councilman Eric Lucero entered the race against FitzSimmons before he retired, running a single issue race against him. However after FitzSimmons saw the writing on the wall, St. Michael (pop. 16,399) City Councilman Kevin Kasel got it as well. Lucero’s crusade against FitzSimmons and early entry raised his profile among the electorate, and earned him the party’s endorsement. Kasel still went forward with his primary anyways. Kasel kept it respectable with Lucero in the primary, but Lucero prevailed 64-36. Lucero will safely slide into St. Paul come January after easily beating Sharon Shimek in November in this dark red district.
Legislative staffer Abigail Whelan (R-Anoka) got the GOP endorsement at the convention against former Independence Party nominee Justin Boals, and then easily defeated him 81-19 in the primary. This is the district Jim Abeler abandoned when he decided to move forward with his gubernatorial run. The young Whelan moves on against DNR fisheries expert Peter Perovich (D-Anoka) in the general election. I have to say that I am mildly surprised that this race has not been a higher dollar affair for either Whelan (14k raised) or Perovich (4k raised). I have this raced as Lean R for now, but I suspect it is much more likely to move to Likely R than Toss-up at this point
This is the affluent purple suburban district containing most of Minnetonka being vacated by retiring Representative John Benson (DFL-Minnetonka). There was a hugely contentious 3-way primary here between Tony Wagner, Jon Tollefson, and Jon Applebaum. This was necessitated after a convention was unable to separate any of them from the pack, with no candidate getting near 60%. I predicted a 34-33-33 race for Wagner, a narrow win over Applebaum, with Tollefson in 3rd in July, it turns out I wasn’t TOO far off, except Applebaum won 38-36 over Wagner, with Tollefson pulling 26%. Applebaum seemed to consolidate support of unions, and ran a better campaign. This primary was a high dollar affair for a state House primary, with Appelbaum raising 55k, Wagner raising 28k, and Tollefson raising 19k. Appelbaum goes forward to the general election against Republican businessman Ryan Rutzick, who himself has raised 53k. This is one race where the voluntary spending limits are being dismissed, so expect huge sums of money to pour into this race between now and November. Given the massive amounts of money raised by both candidates, and the purple nature of the district, I am moving this race to Toss-up from Lean D. I suspect this will be the closest and most expensive legislative race in the state this year.
Freshman Reppresentative Ernie Leidiger has had a rough couple of years, and is opting to leave St. Paul after one term. I don’t agree with Leidiger on pretty much anything, but as a fellow man I really do hope that he is able to get his life in order soon. But that leaves an open blood red district where there was a contested primary. The fireworks aren’t going to be as exciting in St. Paul with firebrand Bob Frey losing to more mainstream conservative: Waconia mayor Jim Nash. Frey’s anti-sodomy focused campaign could only get him 40% of the vote against Nash, who now is a shoo-in come November.
National conservatives wanted to make an example of all Minnesota Republicans that backed the same-sex legislation in 2013, with Loon being the only one that looked poised to get a pass in her wealthy suburban district that voted against the ban 60-40 in 2012. But she faced a fairly well-funded challenge from self-described Christian activist Sheila Kihne. Loon is a masterful politician, who is likely the frontrunner to replace Paulsen if he chooses to hang it up, and she put a thumping to Kihne 61-39, solidifying herself in her Eden Prairie seat. Loon’s victory takes this race off the table for Democrats entirely, so her victory moves this to Safe R in my book.
This was a primary between a fairly traditional Republican candidate Andrea Todd-Harlin, and a very non-traditional candidate in 27-year-old Uzbekistani immigrant Victor Lake. Todd-Harlin ended up with the red checkmark 56-44 against the upstart Lake. Todd-Harlin now faces Representative Sandra Masin (DFL-Eagan) in a very purple district in one of the most elastic districts in the state. Masin is taking her challenge very seriously, having dipped into her warchest for spending already, as she has been slightly outraised by Todd-Harlin 16k-15k. This is not quite a 50/50 district, and Masin did unseat an incumbent by 11, while Obama carried it by 13. I give Masin a slight edge, but it could be moved to toss-up depending on how the next couple months go.
55A is interesting as it was one of only a couple House districts in the state to have both a D and an R primary. This is mostly red turf in Scott County. On the GOP side, there was a very contentious convention, with homeschooling activist and general cultural warrior Mike Mackenthun getting the official endorsement. Unlike most endorsed candidates, a lot of members of the party sat on their hands instead of giving him the ceremonial endorsement usually afforded to officially endorsed candidates. Against Mckenthun was Shakopee school board member Bob Loonan. Loonan was one of only two politicians (Jim Hagedorn: MN-1) in Minnesota this year to defeat an officially endorsed candidate in the primary, winning by the skin of his teeth by 17 votes. I see Loonan as a far superior candidate to Mackenthun, which takes away the little sliver of hope Democrats had when they got their golden candidate in Shakopee city councilman Jay Whiting. Whiting himself had a token primary against Some Dude Ronald Gray. Whiting won 83-17, but is not going to beat Loonan.
This was a really nasty and unfortunate series of events surrounding the caucus process earlier this spring. Feel free to check out my last diary for details if you’re curious. But ultimately 42-year incumbent Phyllis Kahn, the co-dean of the house, beat Somali-American activist and recently elected Minneapolis School Board Member Mohamud Noor 54-46. This race had really heavy racial and cultural overtones between the University of Minnesota and the Somali community in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. Kahn now faces token Republican Abdi Askar, another Somali-American.
28-year Incumbent St. Paul Representative Jean Wagenius (DFL) had a Some Dude challenger Roger Kittelson. It was never a real election, and Wagenius won 92-8, advancing to November against Republican Andres Hortillosa in this deep blue district