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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published August 04 2012

Aug. 14 primary vote expected to be spotty

ST. PAUL – Mike Parry and Allen Quist have added some spice to an otherwise quiet Minnesota primary election campaign.

The two candidates in southern Minnesota are fighting like cats and dogs for the 1st Congressional District nomination after Republicans at a spring district convention could not decide between the two.

To a lesser extent, a three-way Democratic congressional contest in the northeast and east-central 8th Congressional District has brought attention to the Aug. 14 primary election.

Other congressional races feature multiple candidates, and two Supreme Court incumbents face challengers, but none of those contests generated much in the way of public campaigns.

The state’s elections chief expects primary turnout to be low and even in the 1st and 8th districts voters are not expected to show up in large numbers.

“The interest is going to be very concentrated in just one party in each of these (two House districts) and within that it will be a high activist group,” Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said. “The habit of Minnesota is huge turnout in general elections and relatively low turnout in primaries.”

All 201 legislative seats are up for election, with relatively few primary races.

In party races, such as those for Congress, the primary will whittle the candidate list down to one person to represent each party on the Nov. 6 ballot. In nonpartisan contests, like for Supreme Court, the primary will leave the top two vote-getters in play.

Parry and Quist have waged the state’s most heated battle over issues such as whether either supported tax increases during their time in public office.

At one point, the Parry campaign headlined a news release about Quist: “Pants on fire,” as in “liar, liar, pants on fire.”

Parry and Quist are vying to take on incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz.

In the 8th Congressional District, Democrats Tarryl Clark, Rick Nolan and Jeff Anderson have waged active campaigns that are getting louder as the election nears. They want to replace first-term U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, who two years ago upset veteran U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar faces Democratic opponents who have not waged very public campaigns.

Among Klobuchar’s opponents are Dick Franson, who has run in more than two dozen elections since 1964, only winning the first; Jack Shepard, a dentist in Italy who could face arson charges if he returns to Minnesota; and Darryl Stanton, who also ran in the past but made little impact and whose campaign this year has been quiet.

Klobuchar’s likely opponent, Kurt Bills, faces two other Republicans. David Carlson is a military veteran who at one time worked for Gov. Jesse Ventura and recently began airing television commercials as his first noticeable campaign activity, and Bob Carney Jr., who says, “We must reverse the extreme right wing takeover of the Minnesota Republican Party” and in recent days has spent much of his time criticizing U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Two state Supreme Court justices have opponents.

Jill Clark and Dan Griffith challenged Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, the top justice the last two years of her six years on the high court.

In her second run for the Supreme Court, Clark centers her campaign on opening up the judicial system so the public can obtain information.

Griffith is an International Falls attorney who emphasizes the fact that although the state Constitution calls for elected justices, most over the years have been appointed by governors.

Gildea, a Plummer native and University of Minnesota Morris graduate, talks about her leadership as chief justice, including making sure the judicial branch was funded when some of state government shut down last summer.

The court’s newest justice, David Stras, also faces two opponents: Alan Nelson and Tim Tingelstad.

Nelson says he strongly supports separation of church and state, and expresses concern that Tingelstad would mingle the two. Nelson also says he supports gay marriage and abortion rights.

On his Website, Bemidji’s Tingelstad, who has run for the high court before, says: “The church must return to its vital role of supporting and influencing the state. ... It is time to rediscover our Godly heritage.”

Stras takes a more traditional judicial candidate stance by avoiding hot-button topics. “Judges should faithfully interpret and apply the Constitution and laws passed under the political process, not follow their own political leanings or personal preferences,” Stras’ Website says.

Poll information

Most Minnesota polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 14. Residents may register to vote at the polls.

Many voters will be in new legislative, county and city districts after census figures forced district boundaries to be redrawn to maintain equal populations.

Economic problems have driven others to move, Ritchie said. “There is a tremendous amount of changing where people are living”

Also, Ritchie said, there has been so much publicity about a proposal to require voters to show photographic identification that some Minnesotans think that is a new requirement this year. It is not; voters will decide that issue Nov. 6.

A complete list of candidates, links to most of their Web sites and other election information is at www.mnvotes.org.

Absentee ballots available

ST. PAUL – Minnesotans now may vote absentee.

While some states allow voters to cast ballots early for no particular reason, Minnesota law allows absentee voting only for specific reasons:

• Being gone from the precinct on Election Day.

• Illness or disability.

• Religious reason.

To vote absentee, a voter may go to the local county auditor’s office or some city clerks’ offices. To vote by mail, absentee applications are available at those locations and www.mnvotes.org.

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Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.