Top three advance in Senate race
ST. PAUL - Minnesota voters narrowed 16 U.S. Senate candidates down to the three who were favored all along.
Comedian Al Franken beat attorney Priscilla Lord Faris and five others in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party primary Tuesday, and Sen. Norm Coleman trounced token challenger Jack Shepard on the Republican side. Dean Barkley whipped six other Independence Party candidates.
"The battle begins," Coleman said, adding that voters will have a clear choice between himself and Franken. "I look forward to a vigorous campaign."
Franken, who had a 67 percent to 30 percent lead over Faris with 61 percent of precincts reporting, said he has been targeting Coleman all along.
"Minnesotans know that we're going in the wrong direction and they know that we need a change," Franken said, adding he would be "a senator that's going to be fighting for them every day."
Barkley beat former IP Chairman Jack Uldrich, party-endorsed Stephen Williams and four others.
Barkley said he will start raising money today as he tries to defeat Coleman and Franken, each of whom is raising millions of dollars.
He expects the other six Independence candidates to rally around his campaign. "We are all friends."
"Obviously, the first thing I'm going to do tomorrow is to raise money," he said moments after he won his race.
Minnesota voters settled other statewide, congressional and local primary races Tuesday.
Three endorsed Republican candidates for Congress each faced a primary. The Associated Press called freshman Rep. Michele Bachmann the winner over challenger Aubrey Immelman in the Twin Cities-area race.
Brian Davis held a 62 percent to 38 percent advantage over Dick Day in the 1st Congressional District GOP contest, across southern Minnesota, with more than half of precincts reporting.
In western Minnesota's 7th District, Glen Menze had the party backing in his bid against Alan Roebke, but struggled to gain an early lead. Menze led Roebke 52 percent to 48 percent with 99 percent of the western Minnesota precincts reporting.
In the Minnesota House District 10B race, which includes six townships in southeastern Becker County and also includes northern Otter Tail County, Mark Murdoch defeated Al Hanson, 83 percent to 17 percent in the Republican primary. In the DFL primary, Timothy Nieminen received 64 percent of the vote to defeat Pete Phillips (21 percent) and Janine Hudson (15 percent).
Two Minnesota Supreme Court justices - Paul H. Anderson and Lorie Gildea - advanced to the general election.
Faris, an attorney whose family is well-connected in Minnesota legal circles, was the most visible of Franken's challengers. She planned to spend up to $300,000 to run against Franken, who has raised millions but largely ignored the primary battle to focus on the general election. The former Saturday Night Live star has too much baggage and controversy from his long career as a comedian, author and liberal radio host, Faris said.
"If I thought he could beat Norm Coleman, I wouldn't be in this," she said even as high-profile Minnesota Democrats backed Franken's candidacy.
Barkley is a Jesse Ventura pal who was appointed to the Senate by the former governor after the late Sen. Paul Wellstone died in an airplane crash. He touted his brief experience in the Senate and name recognition. Uldrich ran a mostly Web-based campaign, citing his military credentials and willingness to tackle tough issues most politicians avoid. Williams, a southern Minnesota farmer, was campaigning with his party's official backing.
Coleman paid little attention to Shepard. The challenger has run for statewide office before and was campaigning from Rome, Italy, where he lives to avoid legal problems in Minnesota.
In southern Minnesota's 1st District, first-time candidate Davis was running for Congress with the GOP endorsement and a big cash advantage. Day, a state senator from Owatonna, said he would make up for his money disadvantage by campaigning for the support of business owners.
U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Mankato Democrat, did not face a primary challenger in his first re-election bid in the 1st District.
In western Minnesota's 7th Congressional District, Menze, a Starbuck accountant, was challenged by Roebke, a former farmer from Alexandria. Both wanted a shot at veteran Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson of Detroit Lakes.
Bachmann is seeking a second term representing the 6th District, which stretches from the eastern Twin Cities area northwest to St. Cloud.
Voters in the DFL Senate primary also could choose from Bob Larson, Alve Erickson and perennial candidates Dick Franson and Ole Savior. Also in the DFL primary was Rob Fitzgerald of Fergus Falls, who ran for Senate in 2006 under the Independence Party banner.
The IP Senate primary ballot also included Darryl Stanton, Kurt Anderson, Bill Dahn and Doug Williams.
In the Supreme Court contests, Gildea was competing for her seat with Jill Clark, Richard Gallo Jr. and Deborah Hedlund. Fellow justice Anderson was running against Alan Nelson and Tim Tingelstad, a Detroit Lakes native and Bemidji resident.
The top two finishers in each race advance to the general election.
Even in Minnesota, which leads the nation in voter participation, turnout for primary elections is low. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said turnout for the general election will be much higher, potentially setting a new record turnout.
Barkley plans to raise money a lot this month, although he said he also will travel around the state to get free publicity at every newspaper, radio station and television station he can.
He expects to be included in debates with Coleman and Franken.
Minnesotans are ready for someone new, said Barkley, who served a short time as U.S. senator after Paul Wellstone died in an airplane crash.
Franken and Coleman "are the same old, same old," Barkley said.
Barkley, who ran Jesse Ventura's successful governor campaign in 1998 and has run for Congress previously, said people are more tired of the big parties now than he ever has seen them.
Ventura will voice commercials for Barkley, the candidate said.
He estimated that he needs $300,000 to $500,000 instead of the millions Coleman and Franken are raising and spending. He has raised about $25,000 thus far.
The Independence Party's party was not typical of most primary-night gatherings. Instead of each candidate holding his own party, several major candidates gathered together in a Hopkins Veterans of Foreign Wars facility.
To show how well they get along, Barkley was concerned that his sign was hanging by an inch or so over one of Jack Uldrich.
Barkley and Uldrich, both long-time Independence leaders, said it is possible to beat Coleman and Franken.
"It's possible," Uldrich said. "I am not going to blow smoke at your and say it is likely."
Uldrich said he has heard many voters say they support Coleman or Franken - but only because "they hated the other guy."
State Capitol reporter Don Davis contributed to this story.