A voter heads into a polling place at a fire station in Golden Valley on Aug. 9, 2022. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.
Live coverage of critical races in Minnesota’s 2022 primary election.
1 year ago
GOP-endorsed Brad Finstad prevails in CD1 special election, primary
GOP-endorsed candidate Brad Finstad defeated Jeff Ettinger, retired CEO of Hormel Foods, in a special election to finish out the term of the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died earlier this year.
Finstad also defeated state Rep. Jeremy Munson, who ran a right-wing insurgent campaign, in the Republican primary for the full two-year term, which means he’ll face Ettinger again in November.
The 1st Congressional District spans the entirety of southern Minnesota’s southern border and includes Rochester, Mankato and Winona.
DFL Gov. Tim Walz represented the district as a Democrat for more than a decade, but the 1st supported former President Donald Trump by wide margins in 2016 and 2020, and the district increasingly looks out of reach for Democrats.
Finstad is a former Trump-appointed official in the U.S. Department of Agriculture who spent three terms in the Minnesota House.
1 year ago
Action 4 Liberty, right-wingers snag a few wins in Republican primaries
It was a mixed bag for establishment Republicans on primary night, with all of the legislative incumbents surviving challenges on the right, but there were key losses in some races.
GOP-endorsed candidate for attorney general Jim Schultz survived a primary challenge by 2018 GOP nominee Doug Wardlow, attorney for MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell.
Republican operatives view Schultz as their best chance to break a 15-year statewide losing streak and half-century losing streak in attorney general races.
There were 12 GOP primary challenges in the state House, and 14 in the Senate, with about a dozen Republican challengers aligned with a right-wing group called Action 4 Liberty.
Some key races won by far right candidates:
- Mark Bishofsky, a respiratory therapist who quit his job in protest over pandemic issues, defeated school board member Tina Riehle in House District 33B in Washington County.
- Rep. Erik Mortensen, R-Shakopee, defeated former Rep. Bob Loonan in House District 54A.
- Action 4 Liberty candidate Tom Dippel defeated Rep. Tony Jurgens, R-Cottage Grove, easily in the newly drawn Senate District 41.
Action 4 Liberty candidate Nathan Wesenberg was leading former Reps. Jim Newberger and Steve Wenzel late Tuesday. Republicans breathed a sigh of relief when Sen. Eric Pratt handily defeated Prior Lake nurse Natalie Barnes, despite the latter winning at the party endorsing convention for Senate District 54.
Establishment Republicans came out on top in southern Minnesota, where first-term Republican Sen. Gene Dornink easily defeated Albert Lea bistro owner Lisa Hanson in the new Senate District 23. Hanson made headlines by defying a pandemic shutdown order to keep her restaurant open and went to jail over it.
Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, defeated Action 4 Liberty candidate Bret Bussman of Browerville in Senate District 5 in central Minnesota. Bussman accused establishment Republicans of launching a “coordinated effort to derail endorsed, conservative candidates.”
But Action 4 Liberty-aligned candidate Bill Lieske won the party endorsement and then defeated Farmington School Board Member Jake Cordes by more than 20 points in Senate District 58, which a GOP operative said could put the seat at risk during the general election.
Pam Altendorf of Red Wing was leading Jesse Johnson of Cannon Falls in House District 20A late Tuesday. Altendorf said her top issues were medical freedom and election integrity.
Last updated: 10:28 am
1 year ago
Many incumbents clinch victory in DFL primaries
Voters generally opted for incumbents and party-endorsed candidates for the Minnesota Legislature in Tuesday’s DFL primary elections, according to early returns.
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar barely prevailed over her opponent, former Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels, for the DFL candidacy in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District.
In Minnesota’s 4th Congressional District covering St. Paul and eastern suburbs, Rep. Betty McCollum, who is in her 11th term, beat Amane Badhasso by a wide margin despite the challenger’s fundraising prowess.
A number of incumbents with credible challengers also prevailed.
Sen. Omar Fateh in District 62 in south Minneapolis, comfortably won the DFL primary to keep his seat. A Senate ethics panel recently recommended he receive a minor sanction for not reporting a campaign expenditure. Fateh was challenged by Shaun Laden, a past teachers union president who helped lead a union strike of Minneapolis teachers and support professionals in March.
In neighboring Senate District 63, Zaynab Mohamed, Fateh’s sister-in-law, also won her primary election easily after winning the DFL endorsement. If elected in November, Mohamed would be the first Black woman elected to the Minnesota Senate, a distinction she may share with former Rep. Erin Maye Quade, who won a DFL Senate primary in District 56. That district includes Apple Valley, Rosemount and Eagan. Maye Quade left the DFL endorsing convention in May because she was in labor and later gave birth. She would also be the first out lesbian to serve in the Senate if elected.
In Senate District 65, which includes St. Paul, Frogtown, Rondo, West Seventh and the West Side and parts of the Midway, North End and Cathedral Hill, longtime Sen. Sandy Pappas won her primary in a race the Reformer featured recently as a generational contest.
In the House, Rep. Aisha Gomez handily defeated Osman Ahmed in District 62A, which comprises south Minneapolis neighborhoods like Stevens Square, Whittier and Lyndale and is home to many immigrants and communities of color.
One DFL incumbent was going down to defeat, however: Rep. John Thompson in District 67A on the East Side of St. Paul lost overwhelmingly to Liz Lee.
Thompson was tossed out of the House DFL caucus after a series of controversies, including allegations of domestic assault and confrontations with police officers.
Lee is the daughter of Hmong refugees and has worked on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Last updated: 1:07 am
1 year ago
Former public defender Mary Moriarty clear winner in Hennepin County attorney primary
Former public defender Mary Moriarty was a clear winner in Tuesday’s primary for Hennepin County attorney, winning tens of thousands of more votes than the next candidate in the crowded race.
In November, Moriarty will likely face retired Hennepin County judge Martha Holton Dimick, who was narrowly ahead of state House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler in the race for second place.
Moriarty’s success in the primary signals her progressive vision for criminal justice reform resonated with a large segment of voters even as fears of rising crime in Minneapolis and its suburbs have provided tailwinds to politicians with tough-on-crime messages.
With her public defender bona fides, Moriarty was able to consolidate the progressive wing of the DFL party behind her, winning the party endorsement as well as the support of Rep. Ilhan Omar, Attorney General Keith Ellison and the Minneapolis teachers’ union.
Moriarty celebrated her success, tweeting it proved Hennepin County wanted change: “The community members, elected leaders, and organizations that support our campaign do not always agree with each other on every issue – but we all agree on one thing – that the status quo isn’t working.”
But Moriarty’s success in November’s general election is far from certain. The top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s primary advance to the general election, and more moderate voters split largely between Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, and Dimick.
Three other candidates to the right of Moriarty — prosecutor Paul Ostrow, lawyer Jarvis Jones and former Republican legislator and judge Tad Jude — also won thousands votes.
Moriarty will also face a broader, less ideological electorate than the politically active voters who turn out for primary elections.
Before running to lead the state’s largest county attorney’s office, Moriarty spent her entire 31-year career on the other side of the courtroom as a public defender. She rose to be Hennepin County’s chief public defender before being ousted in 2020 over allegations of creating a fearful work environment — allegations she and her allies say were made in retaliation for her racial justice advocacy. She was awarded a $300,000 settlement.
If Moriarty wins, Minneapolis and its suburbs would follow cities like San Francisco and Philadelphia in electing defense attorneys who promised to remake the prosecutor’s office — replacing a tough-on-crime agenda with criminal justice reform.
Although Philadelphia voters reelected District Attorney Larry Krasner, San Francisco voters recalled progressive prosecutor Chesa Boudin in a June landslide.
Moriarty, who is white and a resident of southwest Minneapolis, says she would try to change a culture of overcharging cases, and seek alternatives to prison sentences if she believes it’s in the public interest. She also said she would work more collaboratively with the public defender’s office.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, led by Mike Freeman, has faced numerous allegations of not handing over material that could be beneficial to defendants — called Brady material.
Dimick has a similarly lengthy career working in Hennepin County courtrooms, first as a prosecutor and then as a judge.
Dimick, if elected, would follow in the footsteps of the traditional tough-on-crime prosecutors who have held the office for over 30 years: current County Attorney Mike Freeman and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who served as county attorney from 1999 to 2007.
It was Klobuchar who appointed Dimick as the first “North Minneapolis Community Prosecutor.” She then served as the deputy city attorney of Minneapolis before being appointed as a district court judge by then Gov. Mark Dayton in 2012.
A Black resident of north Minneapolis, Dimick has gone toe-to-toe with police abolition activists, calling for more police and tougher penalties for gun violence and carjackings.
“I’m sick of politicians who value public opinion over public safety,” Dimick’s campaign touts. “Public safety isn’t a slogan to me, it’s what I’ve spent my career protecting and promoting.”
Last updated: 11:38 pm
1 year ago
Rep. John Thompson ousted after first term by Liz Lee
State Rep. John Thompson’s brief and tumultuous career in Minnesota politics appears to be over for now, as early returns showed him losing badly in a DFL primary to Liz Lee, a nonprofit consultant with experience on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Thompson, who represents the East Side of St. Paul, was an unlikely candidate, his political motivation borne of tragedy. He worked for St. Paul Public Schools from 2013 to 2019 as a cafeteria equipment repairman, where he was friends and coworkers with Philando Castile. In 2016, a St. Anthony police officer shot and killed Castile during a traffic stop, which turned Thompson into an activist against police brutality.
He won a DFL primary for a state House seat in 2020.
What followed was a series of self-inflicted political wounds, as well as revelations about his past that caused him to lose support from colleagues with Gov. Tim Walz calling on him to resign.
He showed up at a protest at the Hugo home of a Minneapolis police union official and his wife — a Twin Cities TV journalist — and shouted obscenities. He later apologized.
Democrats would later turn on him after the fallout of a July 4, 2021 traffic stop in which Thompson showed a Wisconsin driver’s license.
Additional scrutiny found police reports, starting in 2003, that alleged Thompson choked, hit and exposed himself to women, sometimes in front of children. He denied the allegations and was only ever convicted of disorderly conduct in one of the cases.
Still, his DFL colleagues expelled him from their caucus last September.
Lee handily won the DFL endorsement at the party convention. Despite his pledge to fight on, Thompson struggled to muster much of a campaign, and he departs St. Paul after a single term.
1 year ago
Omar wins DFL primary in close race
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar barely prevailed in her primary election for the DFL candidacy in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District against former Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels.
Omar’s primary this year was far closer than her 2020 primary, where she beat a well-funded challenger by a wide margin. Nearly half the voters opted for a candidate who lacked Omar’s political celebrity and campaigned on support for public safety amid the increase in crime suffered by Minneapolis since 2020.
Samuels conceded the election on Tuesday night.
Omar was seen attending last-minute campaign events minutes before and after the polls closed Tuesday. She’s in her second term in a district representing Minneapolis and its inner-ring suburbs.
Omar rocketed to prominence by becoming the first Somali-American elected to the state Legislature, more than two decades after people began arriving here from the east African nation. Just two years later, she was elected to Congress and joined “The Squad,” a group of young, progressive women of color who often used savvy media tactics to shape the Democratic agenda. They also faced brutal, frequently racist attacks, including from then President Donald Trump.
Earlier in her Washington tenure, Omar was also prone to create her own controversies. She was forced to apologize to the Jewish community after she seemed to suggest that Israeli allies in American politics were motivated by money.
This is the second election cycle in which Omar has faced a Democratic primary challenger.
Samuels is currently CEO of MicroGrants — a nonprofit that gives small grants to people of low-income.
Samuels made himself synonymous with support for law enforcement amid rising crime and gained endorsement from prominent local officials, including Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and former Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.
Samuels successfully campaigned last year against the amendment that would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety; Omar supported the amendment.
Samuels and his wife Sondra Samuels, who is CEO of the Northside Achievement Zone, are among the plaintiffs who prevailed in a lawsuit forcing the city of Minneapolis to hire more police officers due to a minimum staffing requirement in the city charter.
Last updated: 9:47 pm
1 year ago
Labor issues a deciding factor for voter in Pappas v. Freeberg race
Lillian Pettigrew with her mom, Lisa Pettigrew, after casting their ballot in Midway. Lillian Pettigrew, a 22-year-old administrative assistant, said she was politically inactive until the recent Roe v. Wade decision. She said the Supreme Court’s decisions pushed her to take action — going to a protest where she joined a local Democratic Socialist organization.
Joining her mom at LEAP High School in Midway, Pettigrew said she cast a vote for local labor leader Sheigh Freeberg. She said she felt his presence more around the community and appreciates his focus on labor issues. She’s started paying more attention to local labor issues, like recent Starbucks and Trader Joe’s unionization efforts since joining the organization.
“I think capitalism needs to end, and I don’t think it’s going to happen through subtle reforms,” Pettigrew said. “I’m gonna continue voting for Democrats, but I don’t necessarily trust them with the best interests of people.”
Last updated: 9:31 pm
1 year ago
“If it isn’t broke” voter said about Congressional District 4 primary
Mary Gallagher, 64, crossed the road from her blue Midway home that she’s lived in for 33 years to LEAP High School to vote for DFL U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum in the 4th Congressional District primary over her challenger Amane Badhasso.
Gallagher, who retired from early childhood education, said she voted for McCollum because she knows and trusts her. They both sat on an advisory committee for the Children’s Home Society.
“And I think she’s fairly progressive, and if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” Gallagher said.
1 year ago
Voter for new voice in Thompson v. Lee race
Kate King, a director of development at a nonprofit, cast her vote at First Covenant Church in East St. Paul for nonprofit consultant Liz Lee in the House 67A DFL primary, over Rep. John Thompson.
The 34-year-old said the overturning of Roe v. Wade emphasized the importance of electing new people to office.
“I feel like in Minnesota we’re in a little bit of a bubble. We have kind of a safety net because we do tend to lean blue,” King said. “But if we become complicit and complacent, it’s easier for things to slip through.”
She said recent “bad press” also discouraged her from voting for Thompson.
Last updated: 9:14 pm
1 year ago
Mom and son split in state Senate District 65 primary
Colin Farnham, 18 and an incoming psychology student at Augsburg University, visited LEAP High School in Midway with his parents to vote in his first election..
Farnham said he voted for local union leader Sheigh Freeberg over longtime Sen. Sandy Pappas in state Senate District 65 DFL primary because he’s interested in “alternative Democrats.” He said the local socialist parties’ endorsement of the candidate and Freeberg’s focus on workers’ issues influenced his vote.
“A Democratic socialist to me, is kind of always where my focus will go,” Farnham said. “They’re always on more of the cutting edge, in terms of paying attention to a wide range of issues that may not get covered by other parties.”
Catherine Crandall, Farnham’s mom and a social worker, voted for Pappas. The 57-year-old said ever since Ralph Nader’s 2000 presidential campaign that may have propelled George W. Bush to the presidency, she hasn’t believed in “spoiler candidates.”
“Of course, we want to be moving in the direction of a more progressive agenda,” Crandall said. “But if it doesn’t even pan out in the end and then you get Donald Trump… I just think we pay for it big time”
Last updated: 9:04 pm
1 year ago
‘Nurse Natalie’ popular in Prior Lake
Paula Anderson and Stacey Buckingham, 46, stood near a roundabout in Prior Lake on Tuesday wearing shorts and red T-shirts and holding signs that said “vote today” near a Natalie Barnes yard sign.
“Nurse Natalie” is a Prior Lake nurse making her first run for public office against Sen. Eric Pratt in newly drawn Senate District 54. Buckingham said Barnes will be a voice for the people, whereas she’s received “giant mailers” every day from special interest groups supporting Pratt.
“That turns me off,” said Buckingham, who owns an investment business.
She also doesn’t like that Pratt didn’t keep his promise to abide by the Republican endorsing convention results and drop out.
Mark Ruths, 62, of Prior Lake, said he voted for Barnes even though he’s met Pratt and he seemed like a “great guy.”
“I’m ready for change,” he said. “I’m ready for some fresh blood.”
The coffee company technician said change is needed in Minnesota, noting gas prices are $3.29 a gallon where his son lives in Texas, and $3.49 where his brother lives in Iowa.
Justin Teal, 44, of Prior Lake, also had little to say about why he voted for Barnes, aside from not wanting the incumbent to win.
Lars Fricke, 42, of Prior Lake said he voted for Barnes because “I like the energy that she brings,” he said. “And I believe that she has sound conservative values that match my own, and is not clouded by years of being a politician.”
1 year ago
Voters’ turn to weigh in on Loonan vs. Mortensen
After leaving Shakopee West Middle School, Duane Smith, 87, rode his scooter six blocks to vote on Tuesday, but could scarcely recall who he voted for in the hotly contested House District 54A Republican race between state Rep. Erik Mortensen and former Rep. Bob Loonan.
He voted for Mortensen, adding, “Don’t ask me why.”
Mortensen has a “pretty popular name,” said the retired electrical contractor from Shakopee.
“I had to vote,” Smith said. “Everybody gives me heck if I don’t.”
Although he voted Republican in the primary, Smith said in the general election he’ll pick the best candidate, regardless of party.
Joshua and Kiersten Poulton know people might assume they’re Democrats, based tattoos and piercings covering their bodies. Although they used to be left-wingers, now they’re Republicans and Trump supporters.
Kiersten Poulton, 29, said she voted for Loonan because he knocked on her door while campaigning and knew some of her family, “like my great uncles and my grandma and grandpa and my aunties and stuff.”
“I thought that was pretty cool,” she said.
Joshua Poulton, 32, a printer operator, said Loonan is “more for the people” and Mortensen “votes with the Democrats” too often.
They were surprised to see a Legalize Marijuana Now candidate on the ballot, which prompted them to go back to their car and research them. (A spoiler legal cannabis candidate may have helped get Mortensen elected.) But in the end, they still voted for Loonan.
Last updated: 8:53 pm
1 year ago
Minneapolis and suburbs vote in decisive congressional primary
DFL voters in Minneapolis and its inner-ring suburbs headed to the polls Tuesday to choose who will likely represent the deep blue 5th Congressional District in the next Congress: two-term incumbent Rep. Ilhan Omar or former Minneapolis City Council Member Don Samuels.
Hennepin County voters also cast ballots to pick the top two candidates to advance to the general election in the most competitive race for county attorney in a generation.
Samuels, who sued the city of Minneapolis to add more police officers, allied his campaign with that of Hennepin County attorney candidate Martha Holton Dimick, a judge and former prosecutor.
The pair offer a vision that contrasts sharply with the progressive agenda of the DFL-endorsed ticket: Omar and Mary Moriarty, former chief public defender in Hennepin County.
Yet voters didn’t always accept Samuels and Dimock as a package.
Less than a mile away from where Samuels and Dimick held a joint breakfast event in Golden Valley, Bill Murtaugh, 77, split his primary ballot — voting for Samuels for Congress and Mary Moriarty for Hennepin County attorney.
“Diversity is good,” Murtaugh said. “I’ve been following Mary Moriarty’s career for a long time so I know her better.”
Murtaugh said he chose Samuels over incumbent Omar because he thinks Samuels will be able to work across the aisle with Republicans.
“Omar has had two terms and she’s kind of a firebrand … I see Don Samuels as more of a uniter,” Murtaugh said.
While turnout appeared underwhelming in Minneapolis, voters came to the polls in surprising numbers in Golden Valley.
Sue Schwalbe, deputy city clerk for Golden Valley, said she had visited every precinct Tuesday morning and everyone was reporting higher-than-normal turnout.
“I’m very happy about that,” Schwalbe said.
Christy Corzine, 61, voted for Samuels at her Golden Valley polling place, saying the district needs a change.
“I think we need someone who represents a broader segment of the Democratic party,” Corzine said. “I think (Omar) is a little out of touch.”
She said she also voted for Rep. Ryan Winkler, whom she’s supported for years as her representative in the Legislature.
Omar will likely fair best in south Minneapolis.
Annie Sparrows, a small business owner in Minneapolis, voted for Omar because she likes how the “Republicans are so scared of her.”
“It seems like they’re working very hard to make sure she doesn’t make it back into Congress,” Sparrows said. She feels Omar has done good work in Congress and would like to see her continue.
Sparrows, who has lived in Minneapolis since 1996, said crime in the city has become a concern for her. It’s comparable to how she felt in the ‘90s, when violent crime reached steep levels in big cities nationwide.
Sparrows likes her home in the Bancroft neighborhood of Minneapolis, but she said things have started to feel unsteady.
“I feel like it’s a bit out of control, and that’s what freaks me out,” she said, adding that her friend was carjacked last week.
Loralee Prescott, 54, also voiced her concern about crime after voting with her two daughters in the Powderhorn neighborhood of south Minneapolis.
But Prescott, a human services worker for Ramsey County, said she voted for Samuels over Omar because she thinks the two-term congresswoman has lost touch with her district.
“I don’t see her paying very much attention to what is happening in our state,” Prescott said.
Prescott said she paid close attention to the Hennepin County sheriff’s race and voted for Dawanna Witt.
“Policing is important because everyone here wants to have a safe city,” Prescott said. “People are running amok with all the shootings … You don’t even feel safe walking around the city anymore.”
Prescott says she wants to see police reform, too, and hopes a change at the top will improve law enforcement. She thinks officers need more resources and training to deal with mental health crises and diverse cultural communities.
Republicans in the 5th District came out to decide who will face off against the winner of the DFL primary, while also choosing a candidate in a more winnable statewide race for attorney general.
Retired shipping clerk Missy Nelson bucked the GOP endorsements for attorney general and congress, choosing Doug Wardlow over Jim Schultz. The winner will face DFL Attorney General Keith Ellison.
“I try to find whichever one best suits what I believe,” Nelson said outside her Golden Valley polling place.
Top among her concerns is what she sees as Americans losing their freedom, pointing to the recent F.B.I. search of Donald Trump’s Florida residence.
“We’re losing our freedom,” Nelson said. “I mean if they can go in there and just break into Trump’s Mar-a-Lago and just walk in there and grab whatever they want, who’s to say they can’t do it us, too? That’s losing our rights.”
Last updated: 9:55 pm
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