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Assortment of races await voters Tuesday

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ST. PAUL -- The governor's race grabs headlines, but Minnesota voters Tuesday will decide a range of races including other statewide political offices, Supreme Court justice positions and all eight U.S. House seats.

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The normally placid state auditor's race has plenty of spark this year as incumbent Rebecca Otto, a Democrat, tries to fight off Republican Pat Anderson, the woman she beat four years ago. Otto claims Anderson's one term as auditor was punctuated with math mistakes, while Anderson says Otto works too closely with local governments she is supposed to audit.

The other two statewide political races have been more docile, although Republican challengers have tried to raise a ruckus. DFL Attorney General Lori Swanson is challenged by Republican Chris Barden while Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie faces Rep. Dan Severson of the GOP.

A couple of other statewide races have gained little attention, but mark a departure from traditional campaigns. They are in the contest for state Supreme Court justice where challengers are tied to the Republican Party.

Tim Tingelstad of Bemidji challenges the best-known justice, former Vikings football star Alan Page. And Justice Helen Meyer faces Greg Wersal, who won a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that opens the judiciary to campaigns more like those seen in political races.

Two congressional races have raised eyebrows.

Republican challenger Chip Cravaack in the 8th Congressional District, covering northeast and north-central Minnesota, is giving long-time U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, a Democrat, a run for his money. Oberstar usually wins with at least 60 percent of the vote, but political observers say this year's election could be closer.

A Democrat in southern Minnesota, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, also faces a tough challenger in state Rep. Randy Demmer, a Republican.

Every one of the 201 seats in the Minnesota Legislature is on the ballot this year.

While DFLers hold significant House and Senate majorities, Republicans hope a national anti-Democratic wave will aid them in getting control of at least one chamber. Even many Democrats admit it is likely that the GOP will make legislative gains this year.

Perhaps the biggest prize in winning the Legislature this year would be the task of drawing new political boundaries. Legislators need to take new census data and reconfigure legislative and congressional boundaries to ensure equal representation, and the majority party has control of that process, which could cement control of the party in power.

Past redistricting attempts failed, throwing the decision to the courts, but if one party maintains strong control of the Legislature it can have more say in district lines.

Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.

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