STILLWATER, Minn. (AP) — Republicans bidding for the Minnesota governor nomination scoured the state for votes Monday by working cafe counters, manning phone banks and conducting talk radio interviews the day ahead of a primary election to determine Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s fall opponent.
The governor’s race had top billing in a primary that also will decide which Republican will face Democratic Sen. Al Franken and whether two prominent legislative incumbents can withstand serious challenges. For Democrats, the main event is a statewide primary featuring two-term State Auditor Rebecca Otto and well-financed opponent Matt Entenza.
Leaders from both parties forecast low turnout despite the five-way tug among Republicans in the governor’s race.
Business executive Scott Honour, a first-time candidate who spent at least $900,000 of his own money on the race, spent the campaign’s final day touring restaurants and small businesses while making the case he would bring an outsider’s perspective to the job. He began at the Oasis Cafe, a Stillwater diner that has received national attention lately for tacking a “minimum wage fee” on customer tabs offset the costs of a recent hike to Minnesota’s minimum wage. Honour applauded owner Craig Beemer’s effort to highlight consequences of a government action.
“He’s being transparent with what the impact is,” said Honour, who wants to head off another round of minimum wage bumps already in the pipeline.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson was banking on a get-out-the-vote operation spearheaded by the state GOP. Johnson won the party endorsement this spring, which usually clears a candidate’s nomination path. This is the first time in 20 years the party’s endorsed candidate has faced serious primary opposition.
Johnson’s last-day itinerary had him headed to eight party “victory” centers where volunteers were calling likely voters. He gave a pep talk to volunteers who had helped the state party log 7,000 voter calls by noon Monday. “Your calling is our competitive advantage that no one else has,” Johnson told them.
He said he hoped party activists could quickly mend fences to all support the winner against Dayton. “He is our opponent, not each other.”
State Rep. Kurt Zellers, a former House speaker, said he would devote his waning time to personally calling voters. On KTLK-AM radio Monday, which has a conservative listening base, Zellers said the fundraising checks he received from more than 6,700 distinct donors gives him confidence he had broad base of support heading into the primary.
“Those are also voters who will also turn out to vote and also tell their friends, their family, their co-workers that ‘Absolutely I’m going to vote for Kurt, I gave him $50, I gave him $10,'” he said.
Former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert has waged a community-billboard style campaign that had him feeding off every parade, church parish festival and local fair he could find. On a humid morning Sunday, he walked a couple-mile route in Newport ahead of a community parade to shake hands of spectators and then walked the parade itself.
“You can say you at least met one of these characters,” Seifert told voters as he handed out postcards with policy positions and reminded them of the upcoming election. More than 100 letters went out to his wife’s first cousins from his mother-in-law urging them and their spouses to vote, too.
A fifth candidate, Merrill Anderson, is on the ballot but hasn’t waged a visible campaign. Still, low-key candidates with Scandinavian last names like his have scooped up thousands of votes in previous primaries, which could matter if the outcome is tight.
Less mystery is expected in the GOP’s Senate contest, where investment banker Mike McFadden is the heavy favorite in a race that also features state Rep. Jim Abeler and military veteran David Carlson.
McFadden has been laser-focused on Franken — and not his fellow Republicans still vying for the nomination — for months, tying the Minnesota Democrat to President Barack Obama and hitting him on energy and economic issues.
Abeler objected to being overlooked in the race and jabbed his top opponent last week for “cementing himself tightly to Washington” after the national party tapped McFadden to deliver the GOP’s weekly radio address.
There are several legislative primaries to be decided, but two have been especially hot.
In Eden Prairie, Deputy House Minority Leader Jenifer Loon was being pushed hard by former campaign manager Sheila Kihne in a race fueled by Loon’s vote in favor of legalizing gay marriage. In Minneapolis, 21-term Democratic Rep. Phyllis Kahn was fighting for the party nomination against Mohamud Noor, a Somali American school board member who has mobilized an ethnic community gaining increasing clout in the urban district.
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