There’s a primary election Tuesday in Minnesota. You can be forgiven for not having noticed. With the temporary Republican takeover of the Twin Cities and a U.S. Senate race that’s been billed as a two-candidate duel for months, it’s easy to overlook the September balloting. But there are some intriguing questions to consider in looking at tomorrow’s results:
1. How comfortably will Al Franken advance out of the Democratic primary?
There’s little doubt that the DFL-endorsed candidate will ultimately emerge from the six-candidate scuffle. His most serious challenger is Priscilla Lord Faris, an attorney and former Sunfish Lake City Council member, who filed at the last minute after citing concerns over Franken’s viability. But Lord Faris has run a schizophrenic campaign, initially running TV spots attacking Franken, but then pulling the ads (only to see Sen. Norm Coleman adopt the footage for his own attacks). The other challengers are the usual cast of gadflies, including perennial candidates Ole Savior and Dick Franson. Coleman faces just one challenger on the Republican side: fugitive arsonist Jack Shepard. Anything less than a Franken romp could indicate lingering questions about his candidacy among the DFL faithful.
2. Who will survive the Independence Party scrum?
Jesse Ventura ultimately proved more interested in press attention than running a political campaign, but there are seven contenders for the IP crown. Three notables stand out from the pack. Dean Barkley enjoys the greatest name recognition, having served as director of the Office of Strategic and Long Range Planning during the Ventura administration and briefly as a U.S. senator following the death of Paul Wellstone. He also has the backing of the former Governor. Jack Uldrich is an author and former IP chairman. Southeastern Minnesota farmer Stephen Williams earned the party’s endorsement prior to the emergence of his two chief rivals. Whoever survives Tuesday’s primary will face the formidable task of siphoning off attention from the much anticipated Coleman-Franken showdown.
3. Does Dick Day have a chance in hell?
Almost certainly not. But the eccentric state legislator from Owatonna could benefit from low turnout. He’s raised no money (almost literally), but enjoys widespread name recognition in the First Congressional District and is popular with the far right. Conversely, Brian Davis has raised a formidable war chest and enjoys the GOP’s official backing, but is a political neophyte. The winner gets the opportunity to take on Rep. Tim Walz.
4. Who will survive to get throttled by Collin Peterson?
The suspense is agonizing. Alan Roebke is a convicted felon who doesn’t have enough money to pay for gas to campaign in the sprawling Seventh Congressional District. Glen Menze is the GOP-endorsed candidate and a veteran of the 2000 campaign, when he lost to Peterson by a mere 40 percentage points. The powerful chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, who is seeking his tenth term, would have to be caught in a compromising position with livestock to lose this election.
5. How many times will Republicans chant “Drill, Baby, Drill!” at Michele Bachmann’s victory party?
Poor Bachmann. She’s been eclipsed by Sarah Palin as the designated GOP pinup girl for oil drilling. But the freshman legislator should be able to take solace in a thumping primary victory. Her challenger, St. John’s University psychology professor Aubrey Immelman, walked the entire district during the campaign — but will almost certainly be spared a similar trek to Washington. Elwyn Tinklenberg, running as a Blue Dog Democrat, and the Independence Party’s Bob Anderson await Bachmann in the general election.
6. Will alleged wife beater Mark Olson represent the GOP in November?
In the most intriguing grass fire of the primary campaign, Rep. Mark Olson — who was kicked out of the Republican caucus after being arrested for domestic abuse — won the local GOP chapter’s backing for a state senate seat. This incited state party officials to denounce the endorsement, with Sen. Coleman even bizarrely entering the fray and GOP flak Michael Brodkorb trashing the candidate. The heavy handed tactics of GOP poohbahs seems to have backfired, however, with local activists rallying to Olson’s defense. We’ll find out tomorrow as he squares off against Alison Krueger in the primary. The winner will face Democrat Lisa Fobbe.
7. What will happen to the Override Six? The six Republicans who flouted party dictates by voting to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of the transportation bill last spring have faced stiff reprisals from their party. The GOP stripped the turncoats of their leadership positions and several were denied endorsement by local party activists. Will voters also punish them at the ballot box? We’ll get a partial answer tomorrow. Rep. Neil Peterson, who was denied the GOP endorsement in 41B, will take on Jan Schneider. And Rep. Jim Abeler will face a similar task in battling Don Huizenga for the right to appear on the November ballot.
8. Will Minneapolis pols Joe Mullery, Willie Dominguez and Phylis Kahn survive?
All three legislators face seemingly formidable primary opposition. Six-term Rep. Mullery, who represents the North Side, was denied the DFL endorsement in favor of activist Peggy Flanagan. But after Flanagan dropped out owing to personal issues, park board member and Dairy Queen owner Jon Olson entered the fray in 58A. Rep. Willie Dominguez just completed his first term and will face off against attorney Bobby Joe Champion. The challenger secured the DFL endorsement and has been strongly backed by U. S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who formerly held the North Side post. Rep. Kahn has seemingly been serving in the legislature since the advent of electricity (1972, actually), cultivating a reputation for eccentricity and eliciting visceral hatred from conservatives. The DFL’er has survived many electoral challenges through the years, but this year she faces Joel Rainville, whose family has exerted an out-sized influence on Minneapolis politics for decades.