Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published August 08 2010
Minnesota primary: Governor hopefuls know every vote counts
Before polls open Tuesday morning, the candidates plan to travel the state and call party faithful, targeting people they think will vote.
Margaret Anderson Kelliher’s campaign planned to make more than 295,000 telephone calls over the weekend and knock on more than 30,000 doors.
Kelliher, state House speaker from Minneapolis, had less time available for traveling than her two main opponents before the legislative session ended in mid-May. But she said her campaign has a better idea who may vote because she is the DFL-endorsed candidate and as such has access to an extensive party database.
Mark Dayton of Minneapolis, a former U.S. senator, and running mate Yvonne Prettner Solon flew to the four corners of the state – Grand Marais, Hallock, Luverne and Winona – on Friday after Dayton already had driven to each of the state’s 87 counties. Much of their time was to be in the Twin Cities over the weekend, but on Monday they plan to be in Hibbing and Duluth.
Former state Rep. Matt Entenza of St. Paul said his strategy has been hitting hard rural counties in western and southern Minnesota because that is where he likely will pick up his victory margin.
The governor candidates meet for a final debate at 7 tonight. The St. Paul debate will be aired live on Minnesota Public Radio.
While there are other primary races, the highlight contest, by far, is for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor-ite governor nomination.
There is no way to know how many voters will go to the polls in the earlier-than-normal primary election, but from all indications, Minnesotans should not expect a very big turnout.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, himself on the ballot, expects no more than 400,000 of the state’s 3.5 million eligible voters to go to the polls. That is on the low side of primaries, which normally draw far fewer votes than Minnesota’s nation-leading general election turnout.
Dayton has led in many recent polls, but Kelliher was close behind. Entenza trailed, but was close enough that, with the uncertain turnout, he still has a chance.
“This is certainly a much more competitive primary than we have seen in recent years,” said DFL Chairman Brian Melendez.
April’s party convention endorsed Kelliher, and the DFL leadership is working for her.
The primary contest “does not really change our plans,” Melendez said, but the party’s gradual ramp-up of workers and volunteers in this election year has helped Kelliher.
While at times Democrats have not pulled together after a primary election, Melendez said that even if Entenza or Dayton win Tuesday, the party will unite without problem because any of the three top DFL candidates is better than anyone else of 17 still in the governor’s race.
From all indications, it appears senior citizens will dominate the polling booths, and candidates have worked hard to court them. Seniors are expected to outnumber others because they are loyal voters and the earlier primary means many younger voters may be out of town or busy with family activities.
The primary was moved up a month to give election officials time to get general election ballots to overseas voters.
Still, having a governor’s race could attract more of a crowd than conventional wisdom suggests, Melendez said. “The governor’s race is kind of the ballgame for many people.”
Republican Tom Emmer also faces token opposition in his party primary.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in most Minnesota precincts.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.