Where are the Minnesota Republican primary votes? A look at August 2012’s Senate contest


There hasn’t been a competitive Republican gubernatorial primary in decades, since the Carlson- Quist battle pitted the incumbent against a more conservative endorsed candidate in the 1990s.

But there was a statewide Republican primary for a federal office in 2012, when Kurt Bills pulled 51.12 percent of the 123,994 votes cast in the race.

While gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races are quite different creatures–and the winner of the 2012 Republican primary was largely seen as DOA in a contest with Amy Klobuchar, one of the most popular senators in the country–the results might be an indicator of voters in the Republican base who are willing to buck their party’s endorsed choice.

A sketchy hypothesis, but one that gives us the chance to look at a dataset, all drawn from the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Election Results page for the August 14, 2012 state primary.

This article is reposted from TCDP media partner Bluestem Prairie. Check out the links below for other recent Bluestem Prairie stories:

Of the 123,994 votes cast in the 2012 Republican U.S. Senate primary, 56972 were cast in CD1, CD7 and CD8. That’s nearly 45 percent of the primary ballots cast.

Northland News Center reported Wednesday:

However, in 2010, about 40 percent of voters in the DFL gubernatorial primary lived in the First, Seventh, and Eighth Congressional Districts. These three rural districts contain about a third of the state’s population, but boast high turnout in elections.

Here’s what happened in 2012 for Kurt Bills’s contested U.S. Senate primary.


Republican Candidate Totals Pct Graph
  DAVID CARLSON 43852 35.37%  
  BOB CARNEY JR. 16759 13.52%  
  KURT BILLS 63383 51.12%  

CD 1

It’s worth noting that Republican voters in Minnesota’s 2012 First Congressional District were charged with selecting a nominee from two candidates who had emerged without endorsement after one of the longest convention battles in recent state history.

One measure of the hapless nature of the Republican U.S. Senate bid is the drop-off from the congressional race, in which 23162 votes were cast in the Parry-Quist battle versus 20,487 in the district votes in the senate race. Nonetheless, nearly one-sixth of the votes in the statewide Republican race were cast by Southern Minnesotans.

While there’s an endorsed candidate in the congressional race, Aaron Miller is being challenged by Jim Hagedorn, and so the willingness of First District Republicans to vote for primary usurpers may play a role here.

However, both Miller and Jeff Johnson’s running mate Bill Kuisle are from the voter-rich Southeastern Minnesota part of the district, and the Quist wing of the party is supporting Miller. This may bode well for endorsed candidates. In Blue Earth County, yard signs are appearing together for Seifert and Hagedorn at some of the usual Republican spots; A Blue Earth (Faribault County) Hagedorn enjoys the support of prominent pork producers in the area.

Republican Candidate Totals Pct Graph
  DAVID CARLSON 8743 42.68%  
  BOB CARNEY JR. 3027 14.78%  
  KURT BILLS 8717 42.55%  


Bills crushed it in the Second Congressional District, where Republican 17,085 votes were cast in the senate primary. Kline faced a minor challenge from the Gerson campaign, where 18631 votes were cast.

While the southern part of the district is rural, much of the district is south-of-the-river suburbs and exurbs. Seifert’s running mate, Pam Myrha, represents Burnsville, which is in CD2.

Republican Candidate Totals Pct Graph
  DAVID CARLSON 4842 28.34%  
  BOB CARNEY JR. 1853 10.85%  
  KURT BILLS 10390 60.81%  


Suburban Republican votes cast 18,773 votes in the U.S. Senate primary, whre Bills scored his third highest percentage of favor from conservatives. Still, there was some drop-off from the congressional race, where 20,704 votes were cast, lightly over 90 percent of which went to Paulsen.

Endorsed gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson (Plymouth), who has Paulsen’s endorsement and challengers Kurt Zellers (Maple Grove) and Scott Honour (Orono) all live in the Third. Will personal loyalties or party discipline prevail for this pool of primary voters?

Republican Candidate Totals Pct Graph
  DAVID CARLSON 5633 30.01%  
  BOB CARNEY JR. 2198 11.71%  
  KURT BILLS 10942 58.29%  


Betty McCollum’s stomping ground in Ramsey County and the eastern metro illustrates the DFL dominance of the Twin Cities proper. While Kurt Bills won handily with his second highest percentage by congressional district, only 10992 voters cast their ballots in the statewide race. But at least that exceeded the 10,732 votes cast in the congressional primary between endorsed candidate Tony Hernandez and Ron Seiford.

Scott Honour’s running mate, Karin Housley (St. Mary’s Point), lives in the district.

Republican Candidate Totals Pct Graph
  DAVID CARLSON 3101 28.21%  
  BOB CARNEY JR. 1483 13.49%  
  KURT BILLS 6408 58.30%  


Keith Ellison’s Fifth Congressional District saw the most anemic Republican turnout of the U.S. Senate race;only 6,581 people cast votes in the contest. Congressional candidate Chris Fields, who ran unopposed, received 5,966 votes. While nearly 90,000 voters picked Romney in the November 2012 presidential election, it remains to be seen if the mildly restored fortunes of the RPM will help in the Berkeley of the Midwest.

Republican Candidate Totals Pct Graph
  DAVID CARLSON 2103 31.96%  
  BOB CARNEY JR. 928 14.10%  
  KURT BILLS 3550 53.94%  


With the retirement of Michele Bachmann, there’s a primary battle on in this red district (Romney received just over 56 percent or 205,652 votes cast) between endorsed candidate Tom Emmer and challenger Rhonda Sivarajah, an Anoka County Commissioner. In 2012, 16,265 votes were cast in the Republican senate contest (18,133 were cast in the CD primary, where Bachmann faced two token challengers).

Will the gubernatorial and congressional primaries spur the party machinery in the Sixth?

Republican Candidate Totals Pct Graph
  DAVID CARLSON 5115 31.45%  
  BOB CARNEY JR. 2124 13.06%  
  KURT BILLS 9026 55.49%  


Neither congressional candidate faced a challenger in the Seventh in the 2012 primary, home to gubernatorial challenger Marty Seifert and Kurt Zellers’ running Dean Simpson. Endorsed candidate Jeff Johnson was raised in Detriot Lakes.

Given the lack of a congressional primary, the 15,098 votes cast in the Republican U.S. Senate primary, which challenger Carlson won, is some indication of the independence of the GOP base in the district–or the atrophy of the congressional level Republican infrastructure after years of Collin Peterson.

With a competitive gubernatorial contest antcipated in November, we think the Republican base will be more fired up for the primary.

Republican Candidate Totals Pct Graph
  DAVID CARLSON 6554 43.41%  
  BOB CARNEY JR. 2237 14.82%  
  KURT BILLS 6307 41.77%  


After a remark in the Owatonna People’s Press by Johnson running mate Bill Kuisle about the expansion of Highway 2 to four lanes under the watch of the late DFL Congressman Jim Oberstar (Kuisle chaired a transportation committee during his tenure in the Minnesota House), Marty Seifert is jumping on it.

It’s a smart strategy, since 18,713 Republicans voted in the 2012 Senate primary, a majority of whom favored candidates other than the endorsed candidate, and the sense of injured merit among voters in CD8 is without rival in the state.

Republican Candidate Totals Pct Graph
  DAVID CARLSON 7761 41.47%  
  BOB CARNEY JR. 2909 15.55%  
  KURT BILLS 8043 42.98%  

Once again, Bluestem will note that the Republican primary for U.S. Senate wasn’t the Grand Old Party’s finest hour, but it may indicate where the vote-every-election base is.