Act I of this year’s Minnesota showdown election took place in June
at the major party state conventions and at a series of last-minute
candidate filings which followed, much of which defied previously
established North Star state political traditions and decorum.
On the Republican side, the most well-known and formidable
candidate for governor, late in entering the race, chose to forgo the
traditional endorsement process, and now faces off with the party's
endorsed candidate in the primary. In CD1, a prime GOP pick-up
opportunity after the Democratic (DFL) incumbent retired to run
for governor, a Republican state senator also entered that race late,
failed to be endorsed, but has remained to energetically challenge
the better-known endorsed GOP candidate, someone who almost
upset the DFL incumbent in 2016. Not suspecting that the race for
attorney general would suddenly become competitive, no major
Republican filed in the primary for that office. The party's
little-known endorsed candidate has a primary contest.
But the challenges facing GOP primary voters seem mild when
compared with the open warfare which has erupted on the DFL
side where virtual insurrection is the theme of many contested
At the top of the DFL list is the race for governor. At the DFL state
convention, party activists endorsed left-leaning urban State
Representative Erin Murphy over early favorite, retiring outstate
Congressman Tim Walz, who had been considered the most
formidable DFL candidate in November. But Walz refused to
acquiesce to the endorsement, and remains in the primary race.
Then, to turn the upside-down upside down again. state Attorney
General Lori Swanson withdrew from her re-election race at the
state convention --- and subsequently filed to run for governor!
Since Swanson is the only candidate well-known statewide, she led
in an early poll, although Walz in a later poll has drawn almost
even. But primary polls are notoriously unreliable, and, as always,
who actually votes in a traditionally low-turnout summer primary
will determine the winner.
The DFL drama (Republicans consider it a farce) was intensified
when Congressman Keith Ellison, long a controversial radical
voice representing Minneapolis and a few of its suburbs, decided
at the last minute to retire from his safe seat in Congress in order to
run for the now up-for-grabs attorney general nomination. A virtually
unknown DFL attorney had received the convention endorsement,
but a primary battle loomed. Other DFLers entered this race, most
notably former Ramsey County (St. Paul) Attorney Tom Foley who
is likely Ellison’s major opponent. Ellison is favored in the primary,
although many observers (and Republicans) think his presence on
the statewide DFL ticket might hurt DFL candidates up and down
the ticket among outstate and rural voters.
Ellison’s retirement created an open seat in Minnesota CD5. This is
virtually an automatic DFL seat, but the primary contest has pitted
figures from various sides of the 2018 national Democratic Party
divide. This is the one race in the Act II drama that is tantamount to
election, and it pits varying radical candidates against a well-known
mainstream DFL figure. A last-minute power play endorsement of
first term state legislator Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American, has
limited value because the other candidates have ignored it. Most
prominent among them, former state Speaker of the House
Margaret Anderson Kelliher, is by far the most well-known figure
in the contest, but veteran State Senator Patricia Torres-Ray has an
Hispanic community following. Omar supports many economic
views associated with former presidential candidate Bernie
Sanders, and is an outspoken critic of the Israel’s policies. The
largest Jewish population in the state is located in CD5. Kelliher
cites her own progressive record, legislative experience and skills.
In Minnesota CD8, long a DFL stronghold, the congressional seat
might be slipping away. Incumbent DFL Congressman Rick Nolan
retired, and five DFLers are competing in the August 14 primary to
succeed him. President Trump carried CD8 by 16 points un 2016,
and has already appeared in the district to support the likely GOP
nominee, Pet Stauber.
Elsewhere, the DFL has seemed to have settled on their nominees
pre-primary, including in CD1, CD2 and CD3 (which are each
competitive races in November).
Wednesday, August 15 will be the opening day of Act III of this
year’s mid-term election cycle. Minnesota, in spite of its media
reputation as a blue state, is really a purple state. It now has a
DFL governor, two DFL U.S. senators, but a Republican state
house and senate --- and three GOP congressmen out of the total
delegation of eight. That could change dramatically either way
after the 2018 November election. 2018 could also be a portent as
well for the 2020 presidential election when the forces of
ideological division in both parties, set now into motion, will
likely play out into another dramatic showdown.
Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.