8/5/2014 12:30:00 PM Political process moves ahead to August Primary
By Andrew DeZiel
After six months, the process by which Republicans and DFLers choose their candidates for the 2014 elections is finally coming to a close, as the whole electorate finally gets a chance to directly weigh in on who should be Republican or DFL candidate in several key races.
Way back in February, Democrats and Republicans met at precinct caucus. At the caucus, open to all citizens of voting age, attendees vote to send delegates and alternates to the State Senate District and county conventions. These delegates then vote to elect delegates and alternates to the Congressional District and Statewide conventions. At the CD convention, delegates decide which congressional candidate to support, at the statewide convention, delegates choose all statewide nominees. This year, that includes races for U.S. Senate and Governor.
Primary elections in the United States were pushed in the early 20th century by leaders of the populist and progressive movements, who believed that shifting the ultimate responsibility of choosing party candidates from party leaders to the people would reduce corruption and make political leaders more accountable. In more recent years, voter turnout has declined, and more ideological candidates capable of building a strong and fervent, if narrow base of support have often triumphed over more moderate politicians who boast broader but shallower support. This has resulted in more ideological candidates from both parties, especially the Republican Party, with the rise of well-funded, very conservative SuperPACs who often target not just Democrats, but moderate leaning Republicans as well.
With DFLers holding all statewide offices, as well as Rep. Walz's seat, and most area state legislative districts, the DFL primaries this year are quiet, with most incumbent DFLers face only token, if any, opposition. The exception is State Auditor Rebecca Otto, who is being challenged by Matt Entenza, former Democratic leader in the Minnesota State House. Mr. Entenza, who entered the race on the final day of the filing period, after DFLers had already endorsed Ms. Otto, has largely self-funded his campaign, as he did four years ago in his run for Governor.
On the Republican side, although Sunfish Lake Businessman Mike McFadden is all but assured of victory in the primary for U.S. Senate, the race for Governor remains wide open. Three candidates - former Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers, former Minnesota House Minority leader Marty Seifert, and businessman Scott Honour challenging the endorsed candidate, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. The race for the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional District, which stretches across southern Minnesota from the border with Wisconsin to the one with South Dakota, is also competitive, with endorsed candidate Aaron Miller facing a strong challenge from the man who came in second at the endorsing convention, Jim Hagedorn.
With incumbent DFL Rep. Tim Walz's district still possessing a slight Republican lean, according to the Cook Political Report's PVI (Partisan Voting Index) rankings, and DFL incumbents Sen. Al Franken and Gov. Mark Dayton both having won their previous races only after statewide recounts, Republicans have hopes of winning their seats in 2014. Midterm elections tend not to be kind to the party that controls the White House, especially when the incumbent President is a Democrat. The midterm electorate tends to be older, more rural and less diverse - in other words, more conservative. Nonetheless, the three incumbents are relatively popular, and are generally regarded by prognosticators such as Stu Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report as favored - though hardly prohibitive favorites - to win reelection.