State Auditor Rebecca Otto (
by Tony Petrangelo
Jun 13, 2014, 8:00 AM

Minnesota Primary Elections, annotated

Statewide Races

This is by no means an exhaustive listing of all primary elections that will be taking place in Minnesota. Some of the primaries taking place feature perennial candidates or otherwise not serious candidates and are not listed here. Rather, this is a listing of the primary elections actually worth paying attention to.

GOP Governor

The Candidates:

Jeff Johnson, Hennepin County Commissioner and the GOP endorsed candidate
Marty Seifert, former House Minority Leader
Kurt Zellers, former Speaker of the House
Scott Honour, businessperson


The battle for the hearts and minds of the Republican party of Minnesota will be fought between these four gentlemen… or something.

Luckily enough for those of us trying to make sense of this four-way, KSTP was nice enough have their polling partners, SurveyUSA, conduct a poll.

SurveyUSA (6/11, no trend lines):

Jeff Johnson 23
Kurt Zellers 23
Marty Seifert 14
Scott Honour 9
Someone else 11
Undecided 22
(MoE: ±5%)

These are about the results you would expect, it’s the best Jeff Johnson has fared in any poll I’ve seen so far, but he also just won the GOP nomination for Governor and that should be enough to explain his bump. Kurt Zellers is doing better than in previous polls, but this is also the first post-convention poll that features only the four candidates running in the primary, and since he’s the most well known of the candidates, it’s not surprising that he would gain some ground. Scott Honour isn’t yet well known, but he has also not started advertising in force yet, which should be beginning soon.

At this point it would seem to be anyone’s race.

Jeff Johnson has the advantage of the party endorsement, but it’s not clear how much that will actually help him and he has not done that well on the fundraising front. Jeff Johnson probably has the highest floor of the four candidates, but he might also have the lowest ceiling.

Kurt Zellers has the best name recognition as the former Speaker of the House, but in that same capacity he is the one most closely associated with the GOP’s recent and disastrous turn controlling the state legislature.

Marty Seifert is still the guy that many Republicans think would have beaten Governor Dayton in 2010, but that doesn’t mean they will vote for him in a primary in 2014.

And then there’s Scott Honour, whose campaign so far has not been very visible, but will almost certainly begin using some of their superior resources in an effort to become more visible.

At this point it’s hard to see how this race will play out. It’s been so long since there was a contested statewide Republican primary, that it’s tough to gauge how many votes the GOP endorsement will be worth, there is plausible path to victory for all four of the candidates and the ultimate winner may not need more than 30%.

DFL Auditor

The Candidates:

Rebecca Otto, two-term Auditor
Matt Entenza, former House Minority Leader


Four Republican house members voted in favor of Marriage equality last legislative session. One of them decided not to run for re-election, one lost the party endorsement, one is facing a primary and one seems to have suffered no consequences. But so far, all of the electoral fall-out of the 2012 anti-marriage amendment, and the subsequent 2013 marriage equality bill have been on the Republican side.

Matt Entenza is the first DFLer trying to use this issue, as well as voter id, as an electoral cudgel against his DFL opponent.

Back when Rebecca Otto was in the state house, from 2003-2004, she voted in favor of an anti-marriage amendment very similar to the one that was eventually put on the ballot in 2012. And she also voted against an amendment that would have stripped photo id requirements out of an elections bill.

These votes are difficult to defend but also happened ten years ago. By all accounts Otto has completely reversed her position on these two issues as she was very active in the fight against both the anti-marriage and photo voter id amendments two years ago. And not only that, she has been a pretty good Auditor as well.

Entenza will do his best to hang these two issues around Otto’s neck, and it will be interesting to see how much traction he gets. The one thing that’s clear about this race, if Entenza doesn’t win, his DFL political career is over.

Legislative Races

District 12A GOP Primary

The Candidates:

Jeff Backer, former Browns Valley Mayor and GOP endorsed candidate
Nancy Taffe, businessperson


12A is currently represented by freshman DFLer Jay McNamar, who won by 1.2% in 2012 and sits in an R+2 district. As such this district is one of the GOP’s top pick-up opportunities in the fall.

As a former city council person and Mayor and now the GOP endorsed candidate, Jeff Backer should be considered the favorite over first time candidate Nancy Taffe.

District 30B GOP Primary

The Candidates:

Kevin Kasel, St. Michael City Councilperson
Eric Lucero, Dayton City Councilperson and GOP endorsed candidate


This is current Representative David FitzSimmons seat. He was defeated for the GOP endorsement by the now endorsed candidate, Eric Lucero, who fits the stereotype of the modern conspiracy crazed Republican. For example, from his internet website:

The root underlying the push for light-rail, carbon emissions tax, and Obamacare is to replace individual choice with government control over individuals.

That’s some choice cut crankery and he’s got the GOP stamp of approval to prove it!

This seat is R+16, so whomever of these two wins the GOP primary, will be the next Representative from 30B.

Interesting factoid: both of their websites use the same favicon.

District 44B DFL Primary

The Candidates:
Jon Applebaum, Lawyer, consultant
Jon Tollefson, Minnesota High Tech Association and former foreign service officer
Tony Wagner, Minnetonka City Councilperson


This race is to fill the seat being left open by the pending retirement of Representative John Bensen. There was no DFL endorsement creating a three-way election for the party’s nomination. This is only a D+2 seat, despite Bensen winning in 2012 by 12 points, and whomever wins will face Ryan Rutzick in a competitive general election in November.

District 47A GOP Primary

The Candidates:
Bob Frey, businessperson
Jim Nash, Waconia Mayor


This seat is currently occupied by retiring Rep. Ernie Leidiger and at R+17 will be occupied by a GOPer next year as well. The person who occupies it will be decided in this primary election. These two candidates already faced off at a GOP endorsing convention that after seven ballots decided instead to not endorse.

District 48B GOP Primary

The Candidates:
Sheila Kihne, activist
Jenifer Loon, three-term state Representative


Jenifer Loon was one of four Republican Representatives to vote in favor of marriage equality and as a result faces a primary challenge. Both of these candidates ran for the party endorsement and neither got it. So now both are running in the primary. The seat has an hPVI of R+7, so while it’s possible that a DFLer could win here, it’s unlikely. Meaning that the winner of the GOP primary is likely to be the next Representative.

District 51A GOP Primary

The Candidates:
Victor Lake, businessperson
Andrea Todd-Harlin, Eagan Parks Commissioner


Andrea Todd-Harlin has served on the Eagan Parks commission for the last four years, while Victor Lake runs a construction business. The GOP held two conventions to try and settle this one, but to no avail and now there will be a primary. The winner will face Representative Sandra Mason in this D+3 district.

District 60B DFL Primary

The Candidates:
Phyllis Kahn, twenty-one term Representative
Mohamud Noor, Minneapolis School Board member


Like many of the Republican primaries in this post, the winner of this primary is a lock to win in the general, as this seat is D+32. There was no party endorsement for this seat, and the process of even getting to no endorsement was a rocky one.

Phyllis Kahn is the longest serving member of the Minnesota House of Representatives; she also faced a challenge to her seat last cycle, although she was still able to secure the party. Mohamud Noor ran against current state Senator Kari Dziedzic and a bunch of others in a special primary election in 2011 and finished in second place ahead of Peter Wagenius, Paul Ostrow and current city councilperson Jacob Frey.

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