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Few top races, but big impact, in primary

People looking for Election Day excitement in Minnesota will find it — but it takes some hunting.

It’s in southeastern Minnesota’s 2nd District, where four Republicans have been slugging it out for a shot at the seat of retiring GOP Rep. John Kline. And in Minneapolis, where a pair of Somali-Americans were hoping to unseat one of the state’s longest-serving legislators. And in central Minnesota, where the House speaker faced a primary opponent.

Still, with no statewide candidates and few contested races, turnout was expected to be very low — which could lead to some surprising results. A few things to know about Tuesday’s ballot:

2ND DISTRICT

The race to replace Kline, who is retiring after seven terms, was always going to be interesting.

Longtime conservative radio host Jason Lewis, businesswoman Darlene Miller, former state legislator John Howe and business consultant (and sometimes Donald Trump spokesman) Matt Erickson crowded into the GOP field. The race turned bitter in the homestretch as Lewis and Miller focused on each other. Miller’s campaign sent out mailers accusing Lewis of supporting heroin legalization; Lewis contends she wrongly twisted his remarks from his radio show.

The winner will take on Democrat Angie Craig, a former St. Jude’s Medical executive, in what’s regarded as a toss-up for a swing district.

KAHN SWAN SONG?

There’s some drama in a few contested Statehouse primaries.

In a three-way Democratic race for a Minneapolis seat, longtime state Rep. Phyllis Kahn is looking to extend her 44-year career in the Legislature.

But history awaits if Kahn loses, too. A win for either of her challengers in the reliably liberal district would likely lead to the election of the nation’s first Somali-American lawmaker.

Activist Ilhan Omar and Mohamud Noor, who lost to Kahn in a 2014 primary, have both argued that the area needs new representation that better reflects its large population of immigrants from Somalia and other East African nations.

DAUDT IN DOUBT?

Could Republican state House Speaker Kurt Daudt’s political rise come to an end?

That’s the question at hand as he faces GOP challenger Alan Duff, a former Isanti County commissioner who argues that Daudt hasn’t done enough to curb wasteful spending.

Daudt was confident heading into the primary, and an outside political group came to his aid with advertisements when an opposing group started publicly criticizing his personal finances and political leadership.

But a loss could halt the Zimmerman Republican’s rapid political rise, which has him pegged as a gubernatorial contender in 2018. It also would throw the House GOP into turmoil as they seek to maintain their hold on the chamber.

LOW TURNOUT

With no statewide races and few contested, turnout across Minnesota is expected to be low.

Minnesota’s secretary of state doesn’t make turnout estimates, but Joe Mansky, Ramsey County’s elections manager and a former state elections official, said he’s expecting 5 percent turnout on his home turf. He said higher numbers in more competitive pockets like the 2nd District that could bump up numbers statewide.

Compare that with the 16 percent turnout in 2010, when a three-way contest for the DFL gubernatorial slot energized voters.

The low turnout could be a major factor in Tuesday’s elections. Candidates in every corner of Minnesota concede that anything can happen when few voters turn out.

 

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