MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesotans — at least a few of them, anyway — will take a short break from summer to tend to Tuesday’s primary election. Here are 5 things to know about the election:
1. THE MAIN EVENT
It’s far and away the race to determine which Republican stands in the way of Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s desire for a second term. In a rarity for the GOP, four major candidates vied this summer to catch the electorate’s attention — but without huge policy differences, it was difficult to see anyone separating from the pack. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson had party endorsement and was seen as a slight favorite thanks in part to the phone calls and door-knocking muscle that came with it. Businessman Scott Honour had no political experience but raised $1.1 million and counting, much of which went to TV ads touting his private-sector credentials. Former state Rep. Marty Seifert pinned his hopes on a rural Minnesota strategy. And former House Speaker Kurt Zellers played up a no-new-taxes pledge plus his past confrontations with Dayton.
2. SENATE SHAKEOUT
Like Honour, investment banker Mike McFadden was trying to start his political career at the top. McFadden acted all spring as if he was already running against Democratic Sen. Al Franken, and landed the party’s endorsement in part by arguing that he was the only guy in a crowded field who could raise enough money to give Franken a tough race. State Rep. Jim Abeler declined to step aside, and spent the summer running a shoestring campaign that featured a reconditioned ambulance meant to highlight his experience on health care policy.
3. DOWN-BALLOT NAILBITERS
No one stays up to see the returns in a state auditor’s race, except maybe this year. That’s thanks to Matt Entenza, the former state lawmaker and twice-failed statewide candidate who filed a last-minute challenge to two-term Democratic Auditor Rebecca Otto. DFL leaders didn’t see it as a pleasant surprise, particularly since they had to expend resources defending Otto as Entenza dumped hundreds of thousands of his own dollars into the race. Two House races bear close watching, too. Longtime Democratic Rep. Phyllis Kahn was breaking a sweat for the first time in years for her Minneapolis-area seat, where Mohamud Noor was trying to become the state’s first Somali-American legislator. And GOP Rep. Jenifer Loon, her party’s second-ranking member in the chamber, hoped to survive a challenge prompted by her 2013 vote to legalize same-sex marriage.
4. TOTALLY TERRIBLE TURNOUT?
Most Minnesotans are going to be fine letting their neighbor handle the voting. Based on past primaries, the secretary of state’s office was projecting turnout from 10 to 15 percent. The low end of that range would be somewhere around 387,000 of Minnesota’s eligible voters. A change in the absentee balloting process hasn’t plumped up the numbers, either, at least for this primary. Minnesota now has what’s called no-fault absentee voting, where anyone can vote absentee without giving a reason. Still, the number of such ballots requested was short of 27,000 late last week — fewer than the last midterm election.
5. ELECTIONS ONE-STOP
If the election crept up on you, don’t panic. The secretary of state’s website has a page tucked away just for you at www.mnvotes.org . You can find a sample ballot, figure out where to go to vote, check your registration status, learn how to get registered as late as election day, and more. Researching the candidates is up to you.
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