The Gopher State has a full slate on the table this year with a gubernatorial, Senate and congressional races. Most of the GOP primary action will be at the gubernatorial and Senate level as only two of Minnesota’s 8 congressional districts will see contested Republican primaries.
Whoever emerges for the Republicans in the gubernatorial primary will have a difficult time unseating Mark Dayton, the Democratic incumbent. In February of this year he had an approval rating of 58%, clearly more than enough to ensure victory in November.
Here, the choice for the GOP should be someone who will show a willingness to attack Dayton and potentially chink his armor and be an ideological alternative. Fortunately for the GOP, of the five candidates in the primary, Hennepin County Commissioner and former state representative Jeff Johnson is probably the most conservative of the lot and perhaps the most electable. A June poll found him only 6 points behind Dayton. Two months previous, he was more than 15 points behind. Another close one would be Kurt Zellers, but he has been somewhat silent on the social issues and this writer is not 100% convinced of his opposition to Obamacare. In terms of ideology, former state house minority leader Marty Seifert is close to Johnson and has been perhaps the most consistently close to Dayton in hypothetical polling. The Minnesota GOP has officially endorsed Johnson and this writer also endorses Jeff Johnson.
For the Senate, that chamber’s resident satirist Al Franken faces reelection on the Democratic side. It seems somewhat strange to mention that Minnesota’s Senate seat is considered, in some quarters, attainable. But, a few things work in favor of the GOP. First, this is Minnesota and the state’s ideological leanings seem to shift with the seasons. Second, Al Franken barely won his first time out. Third, Franken, despite image polishing, carries some eccentricities into the race. Fourth, Obama’s approval ratings have a tendency to pull all Democrats down.
Let’s just eliminate the two nut cases: Patrick Munro and Ole Savior. That leaves Jim Abeler, David Carlson, and Mike McFadden. The eventual winner will not be a hard core conservative. But, the most “conservative” of the lot would be Carlson. However, the most electable of the group would be Mike McFadden at this point. A June poll found McFadden 11 points behind Franken. Working from a belief that the GOP chances are less than 50% in November, the best thing to do is just make this race as interesting as possible and throw a scare into Franken and the Democratic Party by opening another front in Harry Reid’s attempt to retain control of the Senate. Therefore, the endorsement lies with Mike McFadden.
There are only two contested primaries in Minnesota on the Republican side. The first will be in the 1st Congressional District which stretches along the southern border of the state. Nominally rated a Republican district by Cook (+1), it is represented by Tim Walz, a Democrat. Hence, this district is ripe for the taking. The Republican candidates in the primary are Jim Hagedorn and Aaron Miller. Ideologically, from an electability standpoint and from a name-recognition standpoint, the best chances for realizing electoral success lies with Jim Hagedorn.
The other GOP contest will occur in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District being vacated by Michelle Bachmann. If I was going by fundraising ability, the choice would have to lie with ex-state representative Tom Emmer. He additionally has name recognition having sought the Governor’s office in 2010. Nothing against Tom Emmer, but his failure to beat Mark Dayton in a Republican wave year is a strike against endorsing his candidacy this time out. Coupled with the fact that his website leaves much to be desired regarding his positions on major issues is strike two.
Conversely, his opponent- Rhonda Sivarajah- is more open about her positions on the issues. And in those positions, she is clearly conservative on a practical level. It will be an uphill battle for Sivarajah overcoming Emmer who has the advantage in name recognition and fund raising. Overcoming Emmer would be her biggest challenge as this is perhaps Minnesota’s most Republican district. Unlike Bachmann, Sivarajah is not considered a conservative lightning rod. However, her actions in Anoka County have drawn the ire of the Democrats in the state of late thus burnishing her conservative bona fides. The most significant action was eliminating the prevailing wage requirement for county projects which really irked organized labor in the area.
Given the fact that this district will most likely remain in control of the GOP, I believe the best choice from so many standpoints would be to endorse Rhonda Sivarajah in the Sixth Congressional District.