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Seifert, Ortman, Emmer top GOP straw poll choices at caucuses

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It was a good night for three current or former Minnesota state legislators who want to move up the political ladder.

MPR News reports that in a non-binding straw poll of Republicans at Tuesday night's precinct caucuses, former state Rep. Marty Seifert came out on top in the race to replace Mark Dayton in the governor's race, while state Sen. Julianne Ortman was the favorite among GOP caucus attendees to challenge Sen. Al Franken this fall.

The Pioneer Press reports former legislator and gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer held a commanding lead in the Republican race to replace outgoing Congresswoman Michele Bachman in the 6th district. Bachmann has decided not to seek reelection.

In the Senate race Ortman beat out businessman Mike McFadden, who has outraised her significantly. McFadden had a war chest of $1.7 million at the end of 2013. Ortman has raised $250,000. McFadden has not ruled out a primary run if he does not capture the GOP endorsement. State Rep. Jim Abeler came in third, followed by St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg, farmer Monti Moreno and retired Army chaplain Harold Shudlick.

The results of the straw poll offer an early glimpse of which campaigns are the best organized early in the election year. They also have traditionally thinned the field, leading those who finish poorly to drop out.

The results followed caucusing around the state among Republican voters. Democrats held their own caucuses, but with Dayton and Franken seeking re-election, DFL'ers did not conduct straw polls in those races. Gov. Dayton had planned to greet DFL caucus-goers in St. Paul with his newly-named running mate, former top aide Tina Smith. His ailing hip kept him at home. Smith had to deliver the message on her own.

In the straw poll in the governor's race, KSTP reports that state Sen. Dave Thompson came in second and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson came in third. Both have said they plan to abide by the party’s endorsement rather than running in a primary. The Star Tribune noted that "undecided" outpolled candidates Scott Honour, a businessman, state Rep. Kurt Zellers, and teacher Rob Farnsworth.

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