Early voting underway in several contentious primary elections

The Minnesota Secretary of State will begin reporting early voting totals this week.

Both Tayler Rahm, right, and Joe Teirab are vying to unseat Congresswoman Angie Craig. (Joe Teirab for Congress/Rahm for Congress)

Update: A communications director for the Secretary of State’s Office told Alpha News after publication that the office has since decided to include a county breakdown for early voting totals.

Early voting — either in-person or by mail — for primaries across the state is underway. And starting Thursday, the public will be able to track the number of Minnesotans who are opting to turn in their ballots ahead of the Tuesday, Aug. 13 primary.

But if you want a more geography-specific picture of how many early votes are cast and processed, you won’t be able to obtain that data on the Minnesota Secretary of State website until after the primary has concluded, said Cassondra Knudson, a spokesperson for the office.

Statewide early voting totals — number of votes cast, not who received votes — will be available before the end of this week. But early voting breakdowns by county won’t be available until after the primary has concluded, Knudson told Alpha News on Wednesday.

That news comes as contentious DFL and Republican primaries in a handful of congressional districts and state legislative races, and a GOP U.S. Senate primary, are underway. In those races the candidates are increasingly recognizing that converting supporters into voters as soon as possible is key to securing victory. The Secretary of State expects hundreds of thousands of people to vote in the Aug. 13 primary.

Also of note, Aug. 13 is the first statewide primary election since the DFL-controlled legislature passed the restoration of voting rights for Minnesotans with felony convictions who are not incarcerated.

Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat and the top election official in Minnesota, said during a recent press conference to kick off early primary voting that his office’s goal is to make sure “Minnesotans continue to enjoy elections that are fair, accurate, honest and secure.”

“It’s going to be, and is, a tense election, in large part because it’s a presidential election,” Simon told reporters. “I don’t think intensity is a bad thing. As long as that intensity doesn’t morph into insanity. We don’t want violence. We don’t want threats of violence.”

Congressional primaries to watch

“I just voted. Make a plan to vote in person or absentee, and let’s take our country back,” said Congressman Pete Stauber, R-Minn., in a social media post on June 29, one day after early primary voting began in Minnesota.

Stauber, a Hermantown resident and three-term incumbent representing Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District, is expected to cruise to victory in a primary he has against challenger Harry Welty, a former Duluth School Board member.

But in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, a fierce primary battle between Democratic candidates Ilhan Omar and Don Samuels is likely to be decided, in part, by how many people the respective campaigns can get to cast a vote before Aug. 13. Both Omar and Samuels have made strong pitches in their canvassing to vote early. In 2022, Samuels, a former Minneapolis City Council member, came within two percentage points of upsetting the incumbent Omar in the DFL CD5 primary. The winner is expected to win the November general election handily over their Republican opponent in a heavily blue district.

Democratic congressional candidate Don Samuels is in a potentially tight race against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. (Don Samuels for Congress/Shutterstock)

Whoever wins the Republican primary battle in Minnesota’s Second Congressional District next month has a realistic opportunity to win the general election. Both Tayler Rahm and Joe Teirab are vying to unseat Congresswoman Angie Craig. The three-term incumbent Democrat is seen as vulnerable in her mostly south-metro district, considered a swing district by many political pundits. Last week Craig publicly called for President Joe Biden to suspend his re-election campaign. That comes as Rahm and Teirab are tasked with campaigning against each other and Craig. Rahm won the GOP endorsement this spring, but Teirab is expected to make it a close primary and has the fundraising cash advantage.

“Be sure to bank your vote early or vote on Election Day,” Teirab said in a statement the first day early voting began last month. “Our work to defeat Angie Craig starts now!”

In Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Michelle Fischbach is still considered the frontrunner in a Republican primary against challenger Steve Boyd, despite the fact that the delegates came out of the April 28 MNCD7 convention with no endorsement after neither candidate could amass 60 percent of the vote. The former state senator and lieutenant governor has out-fundraised Boyd, a businessman from Kensington, by a factor of 10 to 1, according to federal election commission campaign reports.

On the legislative level, there are more than a dozen primaries taking place across the state. Some of those being watched most closely include:

  • House District 41A (Lake Elmo, Cottage Grove, Afton) Republican primary between Grayson McNew and Wayne Johnson. It’s considered a toss-up district in the general election.
  • House District 26A (Winona) where the winners of a GOP primary between Aaron Repinski and Stephen Doerr and a DFL primary between Sarah Krueger and Dwayne Voegeli will square off in the November election to replace longtime retiring Democratic legislator Gene Pelowski.
  • House District 61A (Minneapolis) where three far left candidates for a DFL primary are vying to replace longtime DFL legislator Frank Hornstein, who is retiring.
  • House District 36A (Vadnais Heights) where T.J. Malaskee is mounting a serious challenge to first-term incumbent Rep. Brion Curran in a DFL primary. Curran was arrested last fall for DWI and pleaded guilty to the charge in January. The district was +17 for Walz in 2022, but if Curran wins the Aug. 13 primary, she could be susceptible to an upset from Republican challenger Patty Bradway.
  • Senate District 45 (Lake Minnetonka area), where former legislator Ann Johnson Stewart is running against newcomer Emily Reitan in a special election DFL primary. Both consider themselves progressive Democrats in a district that could swing red under the right conditions. The winner will take on Republican Kathleen Fowke in a general election that will decide control of the state Senate.


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.