The Minnesota State Primary on August 9th has a number of interesting contests which include insurgences from the left against DFLers and the right against Republicans. As we saw during the Presidential Primary season, there is a lot of unrest in our politics this year. With a week before the winnowing process, we thought we would take a look at each legislative contest and try to understand the dynamics in each race.
There are seventeen House primary contests with eleven on the DFL side and six on the Republican. Seven incumbents face a primary challenge and they are: Reps. Sondra Peterson (R15A, Princeton), Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-31A, Crown), Tom Hackbarth (R-31B, Cedar), Deb Hillstrom (DFL-40B, Brooklyn Center), Joe Mullery (DFL-59A, Minneapolis), Phyllis Kahn (DFL-60B, Minneapolis) and Rena Moran (DFL-65A, St Paul).
When looking at the field of candidates on the Republican side, we wonder if the victorious candidate will be more or less like Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump. In the six odd Republican Primaries, as one candidate stakes out an extreme right-wing conservative position and the other tries to one-up that position. This one-upmanship normally, would make a candidate untenable to the general electorate, but with this current state of unease traditional measures are thrown out the window.
We will highlight a few of the more interesting and impactful contests, since some are merely party fights angling for a shot at a well heeled incumbent, while others could have a dramatic effect.
District 31A (Republic Primary)-House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-30A, Crown) incumbent v. Alan Duff
The most significant, by far is the challenge for Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt R-31A, Crown). His loss would have a significant effect on the forthcoming special session, in fact, were he to lose, he would not likely even be the negotiator over session. He is facing off against someone he served with on the Isanti County Board. Alan Duff (R) is a Tea Party candidate, who doesn’t feel Daudt is adhering to the tenants of “true” fiscal conservatism, because he has been willing to compromise with Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) and DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-03, Cook). In this case, the conservative rule appears to be, compromise is capitulation.
Early on in this contest there were some conversations about DFLers crossing over and voting against Daudt, but we have heard little to further this idea. There were about 500 people who attended the DFL caucus this year and little on the ballot by way of important on the DFL side with the exception of the Congressional District contest. Truth is in a small turnout, like a legislative primary 500 votes, could have a significant impact. It likely will not happen, because at the time of this article only 90 absentee votes have been cast. Looks like chicken is the rule here.
District 60B (DFL Primary)-Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-60B, Minneapolis) incumbent v. Mohamud Noor (DFL) and Ilhan Omar (DFL)
Another interesting race pits one of the two longest serving members of the Minnesota against two opponents. Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-60B, Minneapolis) matches up against two Somali candidates, Mohamud Noor (DFL) and Ilhan Omar (DFL) Both of Kahn opponents are from the Somali community, and in fact from the same tribal community. Ironically, the longest serving member of the legislature, a Jewish woman, who represents the West Bank, is being challenged by two Muslims.
The most intriguing aspect of this race is the struggle of an emerging community (Somalia) trying to gain its political footing here in Minnesota. It is clear the Somali grows larger each day and their high birth rate is one of the political issues, which tax the resource options and housing becomes an even more paramount for public discourse.
As we track this race, certain schisms seem to be emerging. Noor as a man is cultivating and receiving support from the more traditional part of the Somali community, during a forum last night at the Humphrey Institute, vocal Noor supporters were either Somali men, community religious leaders or women adorn with Hijab. Correspondingly, his support at the District 60B endorsing convention, though small, was a similar constituency group.
Omar as a Somali woman covers three political boxes: gender, culture and age. In political parlance she is a threefer. As the youngest candidate in the race and the most recent college graduate, she seems to receive her support from the younger, more progressive community.
Granted these characterizations may seem overly simplistic, and of course each candidate has other supporters both traditional and non-traditional.
Her appeal to a younger voting base aligns with the support for Bernie Sanders and a student population. She also confirmed as much during her opening remarks.
Her agenda seems to be right out of TakeActionMN’s playbook and she was endorsed by the group prior to the endorsing convention and TakeActionMN provided an in kind donation to her campaign with a literature piece used at the convention. We have talked with some of the progressive activists in the district, which are supporting Omar because they feel Kahn has not listened to them specifically and it is more of an ego snub rather than an issue of substance. Liberal white guilt is likely in play and a factor to Omar’s advantage.
The Student Vote
Since the University of Minnesota Minneapolis Campus and Augsburg College make up such a substantial part of the district, one would think there is an significant opportunity to cultivate support from this community, but the question is will the student vote be as available for an August 9th primary? The U of M Fall Semester begins September 5th and Augsburg August 29th. This prevents freshmen from voting in any fashion and other campus residential students will not be able to vote unless they have registered at a new address different from the Spring Semester redirected their ballots another address. This activity will take far more organizational effort.
Here is a letter of support in the MNDaily, which calls change for change sake, which is in direct conflict with how the legislative process works. It is about seniority stupid.
There is a big push for early voting and since Minnesota now has a no excuse absentee ballot system people can apply to vote quite readily. We have talked with both the Noor and Omar campaigns and learned the following. Noor says they are aggressively pursuing an early voting strategy with their campaign and claims a better than a 2-1 advantage over Omar. In fact, they say have even been siphoning off votes organized by Omar.
The Omar campaign says they too have been mounting an aggressive early vote strategy and their claim is that they have contacted obtained requests for absentee ballots which exceed the total number of 2332 votes Kahn received in the last primary.
Our investigation into the validity of these claims show at the time of this story 1875 ballots have been received and accepted. This includes some ballots, which are now being accepted directly at the polling locations. Based on our research the Omar claim is not met, but the Noor claim may be true. Granted, this number can grow because people can submit absentee ballot forms and receive a ballot up to the day of the primary election, though the ballot must be received and accepted by the day of the election. Also, campaigns may be holding completed ballots for drop into the county office in order to establish a trend line or outmaneuver their opposition.
Noor has been accurse of not bidding his time and self-anointing as a leader in his community. He is mounting his third attempt at legislative office, he finished 2nd in the 2011 Primary losing out to now Sen. Kari Dziedzic (DFL-60, Minneapolis). He then contested against Kahn in a 2014 Primary, who defeated him by 493 votes. If he loses this time he may be relegated to the annuals of perennial candidates or gadflies like: Harold Stassen, Ole Savior and Dick Franson.
By all accounts we believe the winner in this contest will need to exceed 3500 votes. Last time, slightly better than 4200 were cast, but with a three-way race and three active campaigns focused on voter registration and absentee ballots we can foresee higher voter than in 2014.
District 65A (DFL Primary)-Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-65A, St Paul) incumbent v. Rashad Turner (DFL)
Moran is being challenged by Rashad Turner (DFL) head of the St. Paul Black Lives Matter. Turner a younger African-American seems to be positioned as a challenge to the establishment, not that Moran represents the establishment, because she mounted her own primary challenge in 2010 to the then DFL Party endorsee Jeremiah Ellis.
We are interested in this race to see if Black Lives Matter is able to gain any support from the broader community. The recent death Philando Castile, though tragic, may not provide enough of a catalyst to political upheaval. Moran has stood on the floor of the House on many occasions and discussed the impact of decisions being made on the floor to the black community, but when the House is controlled by a Republican majority the words fall on deaf ears.
Other House Primaries
District 01B (DFL Primary)-Michael “Mike” Moore v. Erwin “Erv” Rud.
Moore, of Mentor, is the DFL endorsed candidate, while Rud is the challenger to the establishment from the left. Moore has a great deal of experience working with many different constituency groups in many different corners of the district. In the announcement article of his endorsement, which ran in May in the Crookston Times a litany of his accomplishments are ticked off in the piece. One specific facet highlighted is he owns two local newspapers in the area. Rud on the other hand, wrote his own Letter to the Editor, challenging a move to remove him from party office since he is challenging the endorsed candidate. The response does seem a bit whiny. There are allowances for removal, but it will take action by the local party central committee.
We will watch will interest as to the outcome, if measured in light of the Democratic Presidential Primary contest. Moore appears to be is the establishment candidate and Rud the outsider. Since, Democrats nationally backed the insider over the interloper, especially, because the ultimate winner is set to face Rep. Deb Kiel (R-01B, Crookston), one would think Moore prevails. Though as is always the case in a low profile election turnout is the key factor, and an established base the essential element.
District 06A (DFL Primary)-Ben DeNucci, Julie Sandstede, Mike Thompson and Tom Whiteside
In this race, there is no endorsed candidate during the endorsement fight Whiteside carried the bulk of the support from institutional groups i.e. labor unions and other traditional support organizations. The main reason being he was a staffer for Congressman Rick Nolan (D-MN08), in the end the race came down to Whiteside and DeNucci who is a local mayor of Nashwauk. Whiteside led on each ballot, but fell far short of the 60% needed with 51.5% of the vote. DeNucci in addition to being a recently elected local official is a small business owner, as the owner of Keewatin Auto Repair, and proprietor of the DeNucci Saloon.
DeNucci supports the Polymet mining operation at Keetac and calls for a push back on state regulations on sulfide mining; he challenges the validity of old scientific knowledge from decades ago. With his focus being on the dumping of foreign steel into the domestic market, taconite production hold a distinct disadvantage.
Whiteside a Hibbing resident at 28, like DeNucci are embodiments of what is an essential value on the Range, which is making sure young people stay put or come back home after they graduate from college. The economic turmoil resulting from lay-offs at the local mines have dramatic impacts in the area. The forthcoming 2020 Census will show a significant decline in population compared to growth in other areas of the state and the clout of the region is expected to seriously diminish. The retirement of Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-06A, Virginia) further eroded the strength of the Iron Range delegation, since most of the power in the state legislature stems from legislative seniority.
Whiteside received the endorsement from the Duluth News Tribune, which in the old days was a kiss of death, because all Rangers know Duluth is not on the range.
The question in this instance will be whether or not the seat moves from the population centers of Hibbing/Chisholm/Virginia to the outer reaches of the community or will the traditional power centers hold sway. At the time of this story 603 absentee ballots have been received and accepted.
District 07B (DFL Primary)- Bryan Jensen v. Liz Olson
This is an election to fill the vacancy created because Rep. Erik Simonson (DFL-07B, Duluth) decided to seek the seat vacated by Sen. Roger Reinert (DFl-07, Duluth). Olson is the DFL endorsed candidate and she received a ringing endorsement from the Duluth News Tribune, partly due to the fact her opponent Jensen, failed to respond to requests from the paper. Olson came to the are to attend college at UMD and stayed on to work on behalf of local issues. She currently works with TakeActionMN, which is often seen as a Twin Cities based organization, but has pockets of support in some distance areas of the state. Recently, she gained the backing of current Duluth Mayor Emily Larson and former Mayor Don Ness.
By all appearances, Olson has the temerity for the office and the Zenith City needs to bolster its representation as it loses current legislative leadership and be positioned for future opportunities by putting forward strong candidates capable of reelection and hence, legislative seniority.
District 13A (DFL Primary)- Anne Buckvold v. Jane Leitzman
Buckvold of St Joseph, is the DFL endorsed candidate and she faces a significant challenge to unseat incumbent Republican Rep. Jeff Howe (R-13A, Rockville). A key component to her race for the legislature is her commitment to have the state finish the connection of the Northstar rail line up to St Cloud as was originally intended. This connection will serve outlying communities like St Joe and provide an additional artery into the regional center.
Since Leitzman has not filed a committee with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, there is challenge to her commitment to the office. Internet searches call attention to a local Veterinarian and a resident of Sauk Rapids.
Based on the local publicity, we think Buckvold has the upper-hand in the Primary contest.
District 15A (Republican Primary)-Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-15A, Princeton) incumbent v. Tom Heinks
Erickson is the Republican Party endorsed candidate and she seeks her 9th non-consecutive term in office, she lost in 2008 to Gail Kulick Jackson by 89 votes. She is the Chair of both the Education Innovation Policy and Ethics Committees. Her Primary opponent, Heinks, is the epitome for the Rightwing Conservative insurgence, his website calls for smaller government, lower taxes and liberty. This is just the right mix for a Tea Party hodgepodge.
Again, the question will be does the Donald Trumpish style candidate win out over the more traditional, establishment Republican party candidate. We think in this case Erickson’s grandmotherly appeal, her name recognition as a past teacher in the area and commonality of her name on an election ballot may prove to be the right conglomeration of factors to facilitate a victory. Otherwise, this election continues on its strange trip.
District 16A (DFL Primary)-Al Kruse v. Thomas Perry
Kruse is the DFL endorsed candidate angling to challenge Republican Rep. Chris Swedinski (R-16A, Ghent) as he did in 2012. First, he must best Perry in the primary contest. Perry has not file a campaign with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, so again question the veracity of his campaign.
We expect the hat will tip Kruse’s way.
District 31B (Republican Primary) Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R-31B, Cedar) incumbent v. Calvin Bahr
Hackbarth kept many in suspense when he filed late in the filing period against Bahr for his 10th non-consecutive term of office. Bahr had bested Hackbarth in the endorsement contest and Hackbarth was weighing his options, but eventually opted to seek a return to the House in St. Paul. Bahr is a Tea Party candidate and fits the mold of most in that stripe.
Hackbarth has had his own controversies over the duration of his political career. In 2010, he lost his committee chairmanship after he was detained by law enforcement for strange behavior in a Planned Parenthood parking lot. At the time he was found to be sporting a concealed firearm, for which he had a permit to carry.
Because of his challenge from the right, Hackbarth, normally see as a conservative member of his caucus is being pressed far harder from the Conservative Rightwing side of his party, though few in St Paul would ever think to see Hackbarth as a moderate or middle of the road candidate, but in this instance he appear to be the more mainstream element.
District 40B (DFL Primary)-Rep. Deb Hilstrom (DFL-40B, Brooklyn Center) v. Jim Richards
Hilstrom is seeking her 9th term in the House and her opponent Richards, makes a blanket, sweeping statement directed at her and others of long-term officeholders being more beholden to their own political party than to their district. He sounds more like a Republican candidate than he does a DFLer.
We expect Hilstrom’s tenure as well as her gender should help her prevail in this contest.
District 46A (Republican Primary) Richard Gottlieb v. Anne Taylor
Gottlieb and Taylor are facing-off in the Primary election to contest against Rep. Peggy Flanagan (DFL-46A, St Louis Park). Flannigan who was uncontested in the special election to fill the seat, was a speaker at the Democratic National Convention. As a Native American, Flannigan is a member of the White Earth Band of Objibwe, and one of two native members in the Minnesota House along with Rep. Susan Allen (DFL-62B, Minneapolis).
Of the two Republicans, Taylor, a woman, is likely to give Flannigan the best challenge, but this is largely a seat with a high DFL index and the Republican contest here will provide an indicator of how the Republican electorate is operating after the Trump endorsement.
District 48A (Republican Primary) Kris Newcomer v. Mary Shapiro
Newcomer and Shapiro are squaring –off to face the DFL endorsed candidate Laurie Pryor, for the open seat vacated by Rep. Yvonne Selcer (DFL-48A, Minnetonka). Shapiro is the Republican endorsed candidate and Newcomer, who serves on the Hopkins School Board, has secured support from the Chamber of Commerce, and claims to be the only small-business candidate this election.
We are interest in if the Republican Party candidate or the Chamber candidate emerges. In this election year the advantage may go to the party in the primary, but the opposition in the general election.
District 50B (DFL Primary)-Andrew Carlson v. Christopher Seymore
We first became aware of this contest at the DFL State Convention when party members from District 50 sought to strip Seymore of his status as an alternate because he had filed to challenge the DFL endorsed candidate Carlson. Carlson lost a special election to Chad Anderson (R) in his bid to fill the seat after the retirement of Rep. Ann Lenczewski (DFL), who left to become a lobbyist.
Seymore survived the challenge when his critics who were white, and he being black, and spouted the DFL Constitution chapter and verse. He carried the day largely when he announced he was a Bernie Sanders supporter and with 2/3rds of the convention similarly disposed he ruled the day.
We expect this will be Seymore’s high watermark and expect Carlson will win in the end mainly because of commonality of his name. Everyone knows someone named Carlson.
District 56A (DFL Primary)-Jared Christiansen v. Dan Kimmel
Christiansen is the DFL endorsed candidate seeking to face Rep. Drew Christensen (R-56A, Burnsville) in the general election. If Christiansen is successful it will be a battle of two young men for the opportunity to represent the community they both grew up in.
Kimmel lost to Christensen in 2014. He was seeking the DFL endorsement, fostering a rematch until a tweet he made on Twitter saying “ISIS isn’t necessarily evil” after the Paris attacks and the onslaught facilitated his departure.
It will be interesting to see if the DFL endorsement holds sway.
District 59A (DFL Primary)-Rep. Joe Mullery (DFL-59A, Minneapolis) v. Fue Lee (DFL)
The contest is another instance where Mullery faces a challenge from within his district from a member of one of the minority communities. Usually, the fight is an endorsement battle, but this time it is a primary fight. Mullery staved off such a challenge in 2012 from a candidate with a musical name Marcus Harcus garnered slightly better than 22% of the vote.
If times are the same in Nordeast and the machinery in place Mullery should prevail.