Former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert and Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, are leading their respective Republican endorsement fields, according to a statewide straw poll conducted during Tuesday’s precinct caucuses. With those nonbinding votes, Republican activists move one step closer to picking their candidates for the year’s highest-profile political races.
Seifert, who joined the gubernatorial contest in late November, nabbed 28 percent of the vote to lead all comers. Finishing second was Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, with 26 percent, followed by Hennepin County board member Jeff Johnson, who got 17 percent. Retired private equity executive Scott Honour and Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, finished well behind that pack, at 9 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Those lower figures are not surprising, and likely are not overly discouraging to either Honour or Zellers, both of whom have been preparing for a primary race against the endorsed GOP candidate.
Relative unknown and political newcomer Rob Farnsworth, a teacher, won 2 percent of the caucus vote, and another 10 percent of Tuesday’s turnout declared themselves “undecided.”
The results of the balloting were an unqualified triumph for Seifert, who had finished third in an October straw poll conducted before he had entered the race officially. The former House GOP leader, who ran before in 2010 and lost the party’s endorsement to Rep. Tom Emmer, has not pledged to abide by the endorsement this time. Seifert recently announced that his campaign raised $150,000 in 2013 during the five weeks that followed his pre-Thanksgiving entry to the race.
The principal loser in the gubernatorial straw poll appeared to be Johnson, a former Republican National Committeeman who had claimed 35 percent of the vote to win the fall straw poll conducted by GOP activists. Johnson’s campaign recently reported raising a total of $240,000 in 2013, placing him third in the field behind Honour and Zellers.
Ortman’s victory was her second straw poll triumph over the rest of the Republican U.S. Senate field, though her margin over second-place finisher Mike McFadden has shrunk since the October GOP vote. Ortman received 31 percent of the precinct vote to best McFadden’s 23 percent — she beat him by a 37-22 spread in October — and state Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, finished third with 15 percent. St. Louis County Board member Chris Dahlberg came in fourth at 10 percent, and long-shot candidates Harold Shudlick, who got 3 percent and Monti Moreno (2 percent) trailed the field. Notably, 16 percent of the caucus vote listed their U.S. Senate choice as “undecided.”
In that crowd of contenders, Ortman and Dahlberg have recently announced that they plan to abide by the party endorsement. McFadden, who has built a huge fundraising edge over the rest of his fellow GOP candidates, has said he would seek the party endorsement but not abide by that decision. Ortman also went public with her campaign fundraising totals on Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the precinct straw poll, though she chose not to go into specifics. Her campaign raised “nearly a quarter of a million dollars” during last year, according to a statement, and received contributions from all 50 states.
Ortman did not disclose how much cash on hand she had at year’s end. McFadden announced in January that his campaign was rolling over $1.7 million it raised last year.
Also on Tuesday night, 6th Congressional District Republicans delivered a landslide victory to former legislator and gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, who won with 68 percent. With nearly all precincts reported, Anoka County Board member Rhonda Sivarajah came in second place at about 18 percent, and Phil Krinkie finished third with 10 percent.
Emmer thanked his supporters in a Wednesday morning press release that pledged to keep the district currently represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in “conservative hands” after she leaves office.
“I promise to continue my efforts to earn the support of the delegates and alternates, and of all voters in the sixth district, as their candidate for Congress,” Emmer said.