Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Post-Primary Analysis.  The August 12 primary passed and there doesn't appear to be too many surprises in the results.  For the most part, endorsed candidates prevailed, with the major exception being the 1st Congressional District Republican primary, where Jim Hagedorn defeated endorsed candidate Aaron Miller.  The Hagedorn name is a familiar one in Southern Minnesota Republican circles, as Jim's father Tom served in both the Minnesota and United States House of Representatives with his ten years of combined service.  That name recognition, along with the endorsements from current and past legislators and Republican party officials in that part of the state undoubtedly made Hagedorn more formidable than your standard challenge to an endorsed candidate.  Hagedorn's margin of victory was 54% to 46%.

The marquee race in the primary was that for the Republican gubernatorial place at the top of the ticket and endorsed candidate Jeff Johnson won the "race to 30%" and prevailed rather comfortably against his three challengers.  The other main challengers--State Representative and former Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers, former State Representative and Minority Leader Marty Seifert, and Orono business owner Scott Honour all finished within three percentage points of each other, polling between 20.8 and 23.9 (Zellers 23.9%, Seifert 21.1%, and Honour 20.8%) of the vote.  Johnson's final unofficial percentage was 30.3%.

I don't think the value of the endorsement can be understated in this race.  Johnson remarked on Monday how important it was to have Republican volunteers and accurate lists of Republican voters available to him in order to target his supporters and get them to the polls.  The value of the endorsement has been debated mightily over the years, but I believe this shows that in a race where no one is going to have a huge financial advantage or some other complicating factor related to the endorsed candidate, the endorsement takes on a lot of value.

One puzzling thing to me regarding the primary is that there were actually more votes cast in the more of less uncontested DFL gubernatorial primary (slightly more than 191,000) than in the contested Republican primary (just more than 184,000).  It's always difficult to unpack primary results and the turnout this year in Minnesota was below 10% of eligible voters (proponents of an engaged populace may want to rethink moving the primary to August), but I found that surprising.

There were a number of hotly-contested legislative primaries.  Here are short re-caps of these races:

  • The race with the highest profile featured 21-term State Representative Phyllis Kahn facing Minneapolis School Board member Mohamud Noor.  Kahn won the race, garnering 54% of the vote to Noor's 46%.  This was a race that was hot from the beginning as the endorsing convention surprisingly did not endorse a long-term incumbent.
  • Waconia Mayor Jim Nash defeated Norwood-Young America business owner Bob Frey in the District 47A Republican primary by a margin of 59% to 41%.  There was no endorsement in this race (although Nash came close to getting the endorsement at the district convention).
  • Dayton City Council member Eric Lucero defeated St. Michael City Council member Kevin Kasel 64% to 36% in the District 30B Republican primary.  Lucero was the endorsed candidate ousting sitting Representative David Fitzsimmons, largely based on Fitzsimmons' vote to legalize gay marriage, at the endorsing convention earlier this year.
  • Incumbent State Representative Jennifer Loon of Eden Prairie won the District 48B Republican primary by a 61% to 39% count against challenger Sheila Kihne.  The gay marriage vote of 2013 also played a role in this race.  Like Representative Fitsimmons, Representative Loon voted to legalize gay marriage and was denied endorsement at the endorsing convention.  But unlike Fitzsimmons, Loon was able to prevent the endorsement of her opponent, which certainly helped her cause.
So, I guess the moral of the story (at least for this year) is:  the party endorsement matters.  It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if Republican US Senate candidate Mike McFadden had not received his party's endorsement in June.  Self-funded candidates with access to ample resources--financial and otherwise--are the ones who can usually successfully combat the advantage of an endorsement, but we'll have to wait for another day to see if the power of the endorsement retains its strength.

The results of every race can be found at the Minnesota Secretary of State's website:

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