ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A surprise Democratic primary for state auditor materialized Tuesday and a top Republican recruit for Congress barely made the ballot, providing last-day drama for Minnesota candidate filing.
Former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza filed to run against incumbent Auditor Rebecca Otto, setting up what could be a tough intraparty contest for a Democratic officeholder already bracing for a stiff re-election campaign. Meanwhile, a filing mishap by GOP state Sen. Torrey Westrom put him in a late scramble to qualify for a congressional race against Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, one of the most closely watched contests in the country given the western Minnesota district’s GOP leanings.
Entenza, who spent millions in an unsuccessful governor run four years ago, jumped into the race with about 15 minutes to spare.
The former 12-year state House member said he would be a more aggressive auditor and described his competitor as having too low of a profile. He reached back to votes she took as a legislative colleague to criticize her record.
“When you run for a third term of office, you need to show a renewed level of energy and I think that I am going to be able to show I’m the progressive DFL candidate that Minnesota needs as an auditor,” Entenza said.
Otto was endorsed by state Democrats last weekend and said she is confident she will prevail.
“Nothing changes about me running hard. It’s going to be the same campaign,” she told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “I’m running on my record and I have very strong support out there.”
Republicans have been campaigning hard against Otto, too, with endorsed candidate Randy Gilbert highlighting her stance against certain mining leases in an effort to make inroads on the Iron Range, a Democratic stronghold.
In Westrom’s case, he tried to file in his home county Tuesday morning. He learned about 1 p.m. that he needed to submit papers instead at the Secretary of State’s Office in St. Paul, a three-hour drive. He arrived around 4:15 p.m. to find the building evacuated due to a gas leak nearby. He was able to file for the ballot with about 25 minutes of breathing room.
“All’s well that ends well,” he said, laughing off the episode.
Republicans will have a competitive primary for governor. They also will pick a Senate nominee in August, with party-endorsed candidate Mike McFadden the heavy favorite in a race that will also feature state Rep. Jim Abeler and three lesser-known rivals.
On the Democratic side, Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken both have obscure challengers to get by on Aug. 12 before the general election.
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