Rybak, Seifert headed for wins in caucus straw poll

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A straw poll results from Tuesday night’s political caucuses continue to trickle in, gubernatorial candidates RT Rybak and Margaret Anderson Kelliher are taking the top spot in the DFL, while Marty Seifert is garnering a large number of votes on the Republican side. Early results for the Independence Party show Tom Horner taking the lead, but voting for that straw poll will continue online until Feb. 28.

Turnout was generally low despite a large number of candidates vying for the seat soon to be vacated by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. But DFL turnout was a bit higher than the GOP’s, bucking pundits’ expectations that an energized GOP base in the wake of the Tea Party movement and a win by Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race last month would deliver more GOP caucus-goers.

A number of the 26 or so gubernatorial candidates have responded to the straw poll results.

 

Iron Range DFLer Tom Bakk maintained a positive outlook despite placing 7th in the poll (8th including uncommitted) out of 11 candidates. “My campaign has continued to build momentum throughout the last year,” he said in a statement. “We have worked hard to gain the support of Minnesotans across the state and from Hallock to Houston County we are seeing the results. The straw poll results reinforced what we have known for months. There will be a number of strong candidates vying for the DFL endorsement at the convention in April.”

Tom Rukavina, who shares an Iron Range background with Bakk, fared a bit better in the straw poll, coming in 4th.

“I’m humbled and energized by last night’s results,” he said in a statement. “This goes to show that a little money and a big, refreshingly honest message has made me a contender at the DFL convention. When I entered this race last November, few people gave me a chance. Last night, we exceeded expectations, and I’m just getting going.”

Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak said his campaign appeared to be the straw poll winner with 80 percent of DFL caucuses reporting by mid-afternoon Wednesday. The campaign released a statement saying that Rybak had done well outside Minneapolis.

“[I]t shows that people are connecting with us in every corner of Minnesota, from Duluth to Hutchinson to Minnetonka to Eagan,” said Rybak. “We’ve been out meeting folks in every corner of our state, talking honestly about what we can accomplish together when we change our politics and put people and jobs first.”

Among GOP candidates, Marty Seifert barely won a majority votes among caucus-goers at 50.03 percent.

Seifert used the opportunity to slam DFLers:

It is amazing that nearly as many Republicans turned out for caucuses as Democrats last night. Just two years ago, DFL turnout was three times higher than Republican turnout. As I travel the state, it is clear that the DFL message of higher taxes, increased spending, and more government intrusion is falling flat with Minnesotans. Last night’s DFL caucus turnout confirms this.

He doesn’t note that a heated primary between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama may have had something to do with the record-breaking 2008 turnout.

Seifert continued, “At this point in the race, our campaign is the only GOP campaign with a statewide grassroots network and the financial resources necessary to wage an aggressive campaign for the endorsement and for the general election.”

Seifert’s primary competition, Tom Emmer, got 40 percent of the Republican vote. The Emmer campaign noted that “Emmer actually polled four points better than Governor Pawlenty did in 2002, going on to win the nomination against a better funded opponent.”

Emmer Campaign Manager David FitzSimmons said, “The race begins today. We are closing the gap and feel really good about our momentum as we head to the all-important delegate phase. These results exceeded our expectations.”