Today's primary: tax the rich or the really rich?
ST. PAUL -- The highlight race in today's primary election features one major question: How rich does a Minnesotan need to be before the state raises taxes?
Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, who leads recent polls for today's Democratic-Farmer-Laborite governor race, would increase income taxes for individuals making more than $130,000 annually and couples who earn more than $150,000. Property taxes on homes worth more than $1 million also would increase under Dayton's plan.
But Matt Entenza and Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who was endorsed by the party, say Dayton's plan raises taxes too much and has no chance of passing the Legislature. They favor raising income taxes on those earning at least $250,000.
It is an important question for Democrats, who have not won a governor's race since Rudy Perpich in 1986. They see this as their best chance in years, and the three candidates have been careful not to create deep divisions within the party, but they do not agree on taxes.
On Monday, the three candidates crossed the state to meet voters for the final time before polls open at 7 a.m. today. Most polls close at 8 p.m.
While most predict a very low voter turnout, absentee ballots are going faster than any recent election.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, in charge of the state's elections, reported 26,211 absentee ballots had been cast by mid-morning Monday.
"Clearly the message is out there about the approaching early primary," Ritchie said. "I am pleased to see so many Minnesotans planning ahead to ensure their voices are heard."
Ritchie predicted about 400,000 of the state's 3.5 million eligible voters will go to the polls, with others saying the state will be lucky to top 230,000 voters.
The Kelliher campaign says it worked to get people who will not be around today to vote absentee, and points to the early ballot demand as proof she has support. Kelliher, state House speaker, said she is targeting voters who the campaign expects to vote today.
Entenza, a former state representative and DFL House leader, also targeted voters. He said he spent a lot of campaign time in rural Minnesota because that is where he can pick up the most votes. He frequently touts his Worthington background.
Senior citizens are expected to dominate the polls today, which Dayton supporters say helps their candidate. In a SurveyUSA poll released last week by KSTP television in the Twin Cities, Dayton dominated among seniors, although he also led in every other demographic category surveyed.
Dayton has led polls recently, by more than 10 points in some cases, but a small turnout means that the campaign that turns out its base voters has the best chance today.
One question that often towers over November elections will be front and center today: the weather. Temperatures are predicted to be a bit lower than the last few scorching days, but a chance of severe storms covers much of the state, raising the question of whether that will keep any particular candidate's supporters away from the polls.
Tom Emmer is the only Republican governor candidate thought to have any chance of winning today. He is the party's endorsed candidate.
Longtime GOP activist Tom Horner expects to win the Independence Party contest; he carries the party's endorsement. However, Rob Hahn also is running a well-publicized campaign in a race expected to gather only a few thousands votes.
Party-endorsed candidates in other races are not expected to be seriously challenged.
Voters may register at the polls, which should be easier today because of the expected light turnout.
Winners of today's contests go on to the Nov. 2 general election.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.