Candidates hunt those who may vote in primary
ST. PAUL -- Tuesday's primary election could slip by with little notice, but Minnesota's three main Democratic governor candidates are doing what they can to attract potential voters' attention.
Before polls open Tuesday morning, the candidates plan to travel the state, and call party faithful, targeting people they think will vote.
Margaret Anderson Kelliher's campaign plans to make more than 295,000 telephone calls this weekend and knock on more than 30,000 doors. Kelliher, state House speaker from Minneapolis, had less time available for traveling than her two main opponents before the mid-May legislative session end. But she said that her campaign has a better idea who may vote since she is the DFL-endorsed candidate and as such has access to an extensive party database.
Mark Dayton of Minneapolis, a former U.S. senator, and running mate Yvonne Prettner Solon flew to the four corners of the state -- Grand Marais, Hallock, Luverne and Winona -- Friday after Dayton already has driven to each of the state's 87 counties. Much of their time was to be in the Twin Cities this weekend, but on Monday they do plan to be in Hibbing and Duluth.
Former state Rep. Matt Entenza of St. Paul said his strategy has been hitting rural counties in western and southern Minnesota hard because that is where he likely will pick up his victory margin.
The governor candidates meet for a final debate at 7 p.m. Sunday. The St. Paul debate will be aired lived on Minnesota Public Radio.
While there are other primary races, the highlight contest, by far, is for the Democratic-Farmer-Laborite governor nomination.
There is no way to know how many voters will go to the polls in the earlier-than-normal primary election, but from all indications Minnesotans should not expect turnout to be very big.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, himself on the ballot, said he expects no more than 400,000 of the state's 3.5 million eligible voters to go to the polls. That is on the low side of primaries, which normally draw far fewer votes than Minnesota's nation-leading general election turnout.
Ritchie, in charge of the state's elections, said he has noticed one thing that could boost turnout: intense sheriff's races in some counties scattered around the state.
"What we know is exciting races drive turnout in primaries," Ritchie said. "There are a number of counties with a number of exciting county races, especially sheriff's races, so there will be hot spots around the state."
The implication is that those counties with hot local races could experience larger turnout and, thus, exert a stronger than normal influence on the statewide election.
On a statewide basis, the action belongs to Democrats.
Dayton has led in many recent polls, but Kelliher was close behind. Entenza trailed, but was close enough that with the uncertain turnout he still has a chance.
"This is certainly a much more competitive primary than we have seen in recent years," DFL Chairman Brian Melendez said.
April's party convention endorsed Kelliher, and the DFL leadership is working for her.
The primary contest "does not really change our plans," Melendez said, but the party's gradual ramp-up of workers and volunteers in this election year has helped Kelliher.
While at times Democrats have not pulled together after a primary election, Melendez said that even if Entenza or Dayton win Tuesday, the party will unite without problem because any of the three top DFL candidates is better than anyone else of 17 still in the governor's race.
Who shows up at the polls Tuesday will determine who carries the DFL banner in November.
From all indications, it appears senior citizens will dominate the polling booths, and candidates have worked hard to court them. Seniors are expected to outnumber others because they are loyal voters and the earlier primary means many younger voters may be out of town or busy with family activities.
Melendez said he does not know how many will vote, but "it is August, so people are not here."
The primary was moved up a month to give election officials time to get general election ballots to overseas voters.
Still, having a governor's race could attract more of a crowd than conventional wisdom suggests, Melendez said. "The governor's race is kind of the ballgame for many people."
Republican Tom Emmer faces token opposition in his party primary.
Polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in most Minnesota precincts.
Minnesota voters may find their polling places at http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.
Other voting information is available from local county auditors' offices and the secretary of state's website at www.sos.state.mn.us.
Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.