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Primary election roundups from around the region

Christina Hujanen of Tower will face former state legislator Tom Rukavina of Pike Township in November’s general election for the 4th District St. Louis County commissioner seat.

Rukavina garnered about 53 percent of the vote in the large district that stretches from the Canadian border to the Iron Range, and then extends south and east to Normanna Township near Duluth. Hujanen received about 25 percent of the vote, edging Kirsten Reichel of Greenwood Township (23 percent) by just 110 votes in the nonpartisan primary. The outcome of the race was not known until late Tuesday night, after press time for Wednesday’s News Tribune.

The winner in November will replace longtime commissioner Mike Forsman of Ely, who decided not to seek another term.

In other local and county races around the Northland:

  •  In Barnum, a $17 million school facilities bond ballot question was voted down by a wide margin. More than 67 percent of voters voted against the bond issue.
  •  In the Cloquet mayoral race, incumbent Bruce Ahlgren and challenger Dave Hallback advanced to the general election.
  •  In the Ely mayoral race, Chuck Novak and Paul Kess advanced to the general election.


The overall primary turnout Tuesday in Minnesota was 12 percent, according to an analysis by David Sturrock, chairman of the Southwest Minnesota State University political science department. That was an average turnout for primaries since 2000, which ranged from 8 percent to 17 percent.

Rural Minnesota Republicans voted in higher numbers than those in the Twin Cities area, Sturrock’s number crunching showed. Voters in the rural 1st, 7th and 8th congressional districts cast an average of 27,000 ballots, compared to a 24,700-vote average in the suburban 2nd, 3rd and 6th districts and an average of 13,500 votes in the urban 4th and 5th districts.

More voters cast ballots in the DFL gubernatorial primary, in which incumbent Mark Dayton faced only token opposition, than in the contested Republican race — 190,664 votes to 183,372.

Still, state Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey said the turnout beat the previous high GOP turnout since the August primary was instituted in 2010 by 40 percent. Before this year, the largest number of Republicans voting in an August primary was 130,408, in 2010.


It’s no secret Minnesota DFL Party chair Ken Martin has been seething over Matt Entenza filing to run against the endorsed Democratic incumbent for state auditor, but Martin made his feelings plain in a post-primary news conference Wednesday.

“It is personal,” he said of his feelings toward Entenza, and he said he doubted the former House minority leader has a future in the party. “He really burned a lot of bridges.”

Because of Entenza’s “blind ambition,” the party had to spend money on a contested primary that it otherwise could have saved for the general election, Martin said.

Entenza’s actions — filing at the last minute and then spending more than $600,000 of his own money on a negative campaign for what’s traditionally a low-profile state post — showed his true colors, Martin said.

State Auditor Rebecca Otto defeated Entenza handily Tuesday evening. She’ll face Republican Randy Gilbert and Independence Party candidate Patrick Dean in the November election.

Entenza didn’t respond to a request for comment about Martin’s statements, but he has said that in running against an endorsed candidate he was doing what many DFL elected officials — including Gov. Mark Dayton — have done in the past.

Both Entenza and Dayton ran in the primary against the DFL-endorsed candidate for governor in 2010, and Entenza has said he was welcomed back afterward.


Officially kicking off one of the closest governor’s races in the country, Scott Walker and challenger Mary Burke struck out for the heart of Wisconsin on Wednesday and away from their own partisan bases of support in the south.

Burke, a Democrat and former Trek Bicycle executive who has become the first female nominee for Wisconsin governor from the two main parties, campaigned in Minocqua and the north woods after skipping election night parties Tuesday in her primary victory over state Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison).

Republican incumbent Walker visited a machining business in Stevens Point and ran a statewide ad that dropped his attacks on Burke for a more positive message.

Both candidates hung on like bronco riders to the most dynamic issue in the campaign: jobs.

Burke said the state hadn’t created jobs as quickly as its neighbors. The ones it has created aren’t as good as the ones lost in the recession, she said.

“We’re not going to get back to where we need to be under the current governor and the current plan. That’s the issue,” Burke said in an interview with the Journal Sentinel.

In radio interviews, Walker touted the 100,300 jobs created in the state under his leadership and said that his approach was working better than that of Gov. Jim Doyle, who appointed Burke as his second commerce secretary. The state is better off today than it was when he took office in January 2011, he said.

“We don’t need those ... Jim Doyle policies, we need to move forward,” Walker said.


Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ sidelined two other candidates Tuesday to secure the Democratic Party’s nomination for Wisconsin attorney general.

She defeated state Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee and Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne. Happ goes on to face Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel in the Nov. 4 election.

Schimel, a Republican, did not face any primary challengers Tuesday.

Happ is making her first bid for statewide office. Current Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced last year that he would not seek a third term.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.