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Preview: Primary election Tuesday, low voter turnout expected

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Minnesotans will take to the polls Tuesday for the state's primary election, where they'll choose candidates to represent their political party for governor, U.S. Senate and state auditor in the Nov. 4 general election.

Low voter turnout is expected Tuesday, with only 200,000 to 300,000 people expected to cast votes, the Star Tribune reports. This could help more publicized candidates win the election, analysts say.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Click here for sample ballots and polling location information. For more information on this year's primary, click here.

Gubernatorial primary

Four Republicans are vying for the chance to run in November against Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in what's been described as a hotly contested race.

The GOP has endorsed Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who will run against millionaire businessman Scott Honour, former state House Minority Leader Marty Seifert and former House Speaker Rep. Kurt Zellers.

There’s no clear front-runner in the race, which political analysts have called one of the most significant primaries in decades.

MPR News says the four candidates don't differ much on the issues, so they've been using their experience to highlight their differences.

Political and Humphrey School of Public Affairs professor Larry Jacobs gave his primary predictions to WCCO (video below). He says the low voter turnout could favor Johnson, but overall it'll be a very tight race, with the possibility of a recount.

The Pioneer Press notes the primary will also show how valuable a party's nomination is, saying if Johnson wins, "the party's stock will rise." But if he loses, the value of having the party's backing "will continue to erode."

The newspaper says GOP-endorsed candidates have lost in two consecutive statewide elections, including 2010, which was a "good year for Republicans."

U.S. Senate primary

The leading contenders in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate are state Rep. Jim Abeler, who has years of legislative experience and is known for his bipartisan work, and successful businessman Mike McFadden, a newcomer to the political scene who earned the state GOP endorsement in May.

David Carlson of Woodbury, Patrick Munro of Princeton and Ole Savior of Minneapolis are also on the ballot.

Jacobs predicts McFadden will beat out Abeler, saying the longtime lawmaker "really doesn't have much of a chance," according to WCCO.

The Pioneer Press called Abeler the “underdog to well-funded McFadden,” noting the candidate has been pitching himself as the candidate with qualifications and experience who is being overshadowed by McFadden’s money.

Last week, the Star Tribune announced it was endorsing Abeler, saying he is the best candidate to unseat Sen. Al Franken. The newspaper urged voters to “look beyond [McFadden's] money race and folksy TV commercials” and focus on Abeler’s “admirable record of fiscally conservative and independent-minded service to Minnesota.”

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce says it backs McFadden in the Senate race, it also said the state’s Senate race will be one of its top priorities this fall, MPR News reports.

State auditor primary

An office that seldom gets much attention has provided one of the state's most intense primary battles, and the only competitive statewide battle in the DFL Party primary, analysts say.

Two-term State Auditor Rebecca Otto, the Democratic-endorsed candidate, was met by a last-minute challenger, Former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza, in the state auditor race.

Entenza filed to run against Otto days after she accepted the DFL Party's nomination back in May, which surprised DFL Party officials. Some called his "last-minute candidacy" an "insult" to DFL party members, the Pioneer Press says.

This race pits former legislative colleagues against one another and has been "acrimonious" from the start, the Associated Press says.

The winner of Tuesday's primary will face Republican Randy Gilbert, Patrick Dean of the Independence Party and the Grassroots Party's Judith Schwartzbacker in the November election, the AP notes.

Jacobs told WCCO whoever ends up winning the primary will likely go on to win the election in November, beating out the other parties' candidates.

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Key election dates

  • Aug. 12: Primary election. Absentee ballots for the primary election are due.
  • Sept. 12: Absentee ballots are available for the Nov. 4 general election. For the first time this year, Minnesotans don't need to provide an excuse. Voters can request an absentee ballot here.
  • Oct. 14: Pre-registration deadline for the Nov. 4 general election. Voters who miss the deadline can still register at their polling place on the day of the election, but may face long lines.
  • Nov. 4: General election

The Minnesota Secretary of State is calling this year a significant election year because Minnesotans will decide a U.S. Senate seat, all of Minnesota's eight U.S. House seats, as well as governor and other state offices and all of Minnesota State House seats.

Many county commissioners, county sheriffs, county attorneys, auditors, treasurers and recorders are also on the ballot.

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