Despite Low Turnout, Leaders Emerge After Minnesota Caucuses

February 07, 2018 07:13 PM

After the Republican and Democratic caucuses across Minnesota Tuesday night there are now two clear front runners for governor.

But it's also clear a lot could change before state political conventions in June.


On the Republican side, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson was a clear winner at 45 percent. The second-highest total went to the undecided category with 16 percent. 

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Former state GOP chairman Keith Downey finished third at 15 percent.

There didn't seem to be much enthusiasm about the field of GOP candidates. Less than 11,000 people showed up at Republican caucuses.

Of course, a big unknown is the possible candidacy of former Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty.

"The fact there were a lot of (undecideds) means these people are available for some candidate other than those who've already announced," Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier said.

"Well, who might that be? Tim Pawlenty."

The DFL also had a relatively low caucus turnout. But they still had about 30,000 people show up.

Their race was also more competitive. Congressman Tim Walz won with 31 percent, followed by state auditor Rebecca Otto at 20 percent. Erin Murphy, a Minnesota state representative, is third at 13 percent, just ahead of uncommitted, also at 13 percent.

Former St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman came in at 12 percent.

State representatives Tina Liebling and Paul Thissen each finished in single digits, and Thissen dropped out of the race Wednesday morning.

Although Walz had a significant win, Schier says he has a lot of work to do to get the 60 percent support needed for endorsement at the state convention.

"So he needs a lot of help from other candidates," Schier says. "They need to drop out and support him. On the other hand, Rebecca Otto is a credible candidate at this point, and she may be the metro liberal alternative to Walz."

Both parties will hold their endorsing conventions June 1. If anyone challenges the endorsed candidates, they will face off in primaries in August.


Tom Hauser

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