Parties have much at stake in Fifth District race

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Though there is little doubt about the likely outcome of today’s Fifth District congressional race, voters will send multiple messages to the four political parties represented in the contest.

DFLers, who have endured a brutal endorsement battle and a primary election campaign that brought out the worst in personal politics, will say good-bye to legendary U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo by rebuking his stand against the party’s endorsee, Keith Ellison, or by crossing party lines to support more moderate–or more progressive–choices.

Independence Party voters will have an opportunity here to gain “second-party” status in the district, as a surging Tammy Lee campaign could finish as high as second. Such a result would position the IP as the party to watch in Hennepin County.

And despite a once-promising campaign that leaned toward solutions, Alan Fine’s fiercely negative approach since the September primary has left moderate Republicans with little place to go. A third-place finish today could badly damage the rebuilding efforts of the party in the district.

This will be the electoral swan song for Green Party endorsee Jay Pond, who spent six months last year chronicling the voting record of Sabo and hoped to build on his showing in 2004, but was hijacked by the DFL’s surprising choice of the progressive Ellison in May. Unlike the Republicans, Green voters can be proud of the race Pond ran, but they still find themselves in a rebuilding mode against a DFL Party in the district that has embraced the Wellstone wing and effectively neutralized the Green’s progressive message.

It has long been predicted that Sabo’s retirement would roil the DFL in the Fifth, but it’s turning out that the legendary congressman’s departure could lead to a political realignment nobody could have foreseen.

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