Advanced Analysis of Today’s Primary Elections

In general, this Primary election is a snoozer. We expect the overall turnout not to exceed 200,000 in all of the primary contests combined. In 2010, the total turnout was 292,834. It is interesting to note that with the new rules for non-excuse absentee voting may actually show a higher participation rate when measured against past years. This is mainly due to the anticipated low turnout.

We will give you our analysis of the various contests and even our expected results. We will be most interested in the value of the endorsements of the major political parties in the local races, because it will show the strength or weakness of the respective political parties. Especially, on the Republican side, due to their past financial woes, it will be interesting to see the respective outcomes. Of course the gubernatorial contest is where most of the attention is focused, but again the local house races are where the true capability is best assessed.

The Republican Primary for Governor has shown little in the way of heating up this election. The spates of commercials on television, which are not the best expenditure of money during a Primary, are minimal. Which is as it should be, but if they are buying ad time, it is interesting to discern what message each candidate is communicating. This b roader message can enhance the one thing Primary campaigns utilize, which is a strong targeted mail campaign. Here again the expenditures leading up to tomorrow’s vote fail to reflect an intensity of effort.

A view of the pre-Primary reports for Republican endorsed candidate Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson (R-MN) show total receipts of $233,984.09; incurred expenditures of $229,862.50 and has cash-on-hand of $122,886.49.  Johnson has received $11,000 more in contributions since the filing of the report. The same for the most financially well-heeled candidate Scott Honour (R-MN) shows total receipts of $1,181,389.12; incurred expenditures of $619,696.69 and has cash-on-hand of $542,242.77.  Now, granted the bulk of Honour’s money stems from loans from himself with obligations totaling $907,456.14. He also received $10,000 in additional contributions since the filing of the report. Former House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-MN) receipts of $265,421.03; incurred expenditures of $619,696.69 and has cash-on-hand of $542,242. The Zellers campaign has received an additional $19,500 since the filing of the report. Former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert (R-MN) receipts of $198,237.84; incurred expenditures of $232,271.04 and has cash-on-hand of $71,018.32. Since the filing of the pre-Primary report an addition $3,500.00 has been reported. These figures are paltry compared to previous years.

In spite of a large amount of money spent and remaining on-hand Honour has failed to make much of an impact at all. In fact, since the reality of his message is effectively my name is Scott Honour and I moved to Minnesota a few years ago and let me spew textbook Republican rhetoric. We think he will spend far more per vote than any other candidate in the field. Meaning he will fare poorly.

All things being equal, we expect Johnson will prevail for a few reasons. First, he has the GOP endorsement. Second, he has a Scandinavian name. Third, he is a current elected official where the voting population he has needed to sway in Hennepin County exceeds 100,000 voters and he has a well-defined base from which to operate. Additionally, this is the second time his name has appeared on a statewide primary ballot with the endorsement. The one major benefit for the endorsed candidate being, a mailed sample ballot from the party.

As we can tell from his campaign commercials Zellers is mounting an anti-tax message, which might resonate with Republican Primary voters, but doesn’t appear to be all that different from a General Election message. Glad to see an intact nuclear family, but sorry not much else is there. The success of the former Speaker’s message seems to ring hollow now that the state has overcome the deficits of the last 10 years, of which Zellers helped foster a government shutdown during his tenure.

Seifert is mounting a Greater Minnesota rural strategy, but as that population declines, so does its political impact. Because he was less visible than Zellers as Minority Leader and because of his tactic at the Republican State Convention, trying to foster a no endorsement vote, he will likely come in third.  

If the Republican Primary turnout exceeds 150,000 it will be quite a surprise.

In the 6th Congressional District, we believe Tom Emmer (R-MN) will best Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah (R-MN).

On the DFL side, with the only statewide contest being the battle between incumbent State Auditor Rebecca Otto (DFL-MN) and former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza (DFL-MN) neither campaign is stirring up significant interest. Since this is a campaign to unseat an incumbent the challenger needs to make a compelling argument for doing so.

In Otto’s defense there doesn’t seem to be any real reason for an ouster. There is no scandal, no financial mismanagement and it appears she is doing the job more than adequately. Yes, she may have taken a position contrary to sulfide mining as a member of the State Board of Investment, but that will likely only hurt her options on the Iron Range. Traditionally, the DFL support emanates from the 4th, 5th and 8th Congressional Districts and if the bulk of the voter’s in the 8th decide to show up they would still need to offset against those in the more populous metropolitan counties. Because they issue is sulfide mining, Otto’s opposition should also cultivate support from environmentally concerned voters, who are just as passionate as are Rangers.

As we view the Entenza campaign we see three basic planks. First, being Otto’s vote against sulfide mining.  Second, her vote for photo id in favor of Republican proposed amendments, which ironically occurred when Entenza was Minority Leader, and hence happened with his full knowledge and sanction. Third, his claim to protect employee pensions, which from the [pensioners we have spoken with is not even a concern of their own.

This being said, few of the attacks on Otto seem to stick. In fact, the main difference between the two candidates is gender and here Entenza comes up short, because as a man he doesn’t seem all that different from any other male politician.

If Otto’s point she originally raised when Entenza filed for the seat being State Auditor is a place where past Governors have emanated, then Entenza may have strengthened her ability to vie for the spot herself. If successful in 2014, she will be a three time statewide officeholder.

We think Otto will prevail and Entenza may even best his spending rate established in 2010, where he spent $66.99/vote this rivaled New York Mayor Michael Blumberg. Good thing he has the money his ex-wife Lois Quam made to cover his losses.

The two House races we are following are in Minneapolis between Rep Phyllis Kahn (DFL-60B, Minneapolis) and Minneapolis School Board member Mohamud Noor (DFL-MN) and southwestern Hennepin County between House Deputy Minority Leader Rep Jenifer Loon (R-35A, Eden Prairie) and Tea Party endorsed candidate Sheila Kihne (R-MN).

In the case of the Kahn/Noor turnout will be the key element. There were 1651 absentee ballot requests with 1448 returned for 87.70%. This is the highest amount in any district in the state. This is the third quest for office by Noor. In 2011, he tried for the Senate seat now held by Sen Kari Detzich (DFL-60, Minneapolis). In that contest he secured 1626 votes, but that was a district twice as large as this. The turnout for that December Primary was 5,981 so it would appear the universe of this election should remain be somewhat better than half of 2011. The higher the turnout could help either candidate, but it will depend on which precincts the turnout occurs.

The Cedar Riverside area benefits Noor due mainly to the high population of Somali residents, but because the University of Minnesota doesn’t commence classes until later this month there will be little boost from the student population. Kahn is also cultivating Somali votes with her support from Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame (D-MN).

We think the combination of a divided Somali population and the fact Kahn has represented the district since 1972 will assist her once again. If the student population were present it could be a different result.

We are less informed about the race in Eden Prairie. Here it is a question of who has the greater sway over local elections the Republican House Caucus or the Republican Party. Loon has the greater amount of money as viewed from her pre-Primary report she has raised $56,196.00 plus an additional $6,000.00 since the time of the filing. Her campaign spent $11,971.98 and had $66,224.17 cash-on-hand. Her opponent Kihne raised $24,927.00 with an additional $3,000.00 coming in since the report filing. The campaign spent $8,827.48 and had $15,304.21 cash-on-hand.

We will watch this race with interest, because the higher the turnout in a Hennepin County race will likely benefit the gubernatorial candidate Johnson.

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