Not since 1990 when Jon Grunseth defeated Arne Carlson (Grunseth withdrew a week before the general after revelations of his skinny dipping with teen girls a decade earlier) have we in Minnesota had multiple big-name candidates in a Republican gubernatorial primary. But that's exactly what we now have this election cycle. In addition to GOP endorsed candidate Jeff Johnson, other entrants include former House Speaker Kurt Zellers as well as former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert (In my opinion, businessman Scott Honour is not electable, but I'm ripe for a surprise given his solid addition of state senator Karin Housley as his Lt. Gov. candidate).
With all that in mind, it's difficult for me to interpret the KSTP/SurveyUSA polling released earlier this week.
KSTP/SurveyUSA--GOP Gov Primary: Jeff Johnson 23%; Kurt Zellers 23%; Marty Seifert 14%; Scott Honour 9%; Undecided 22%; Other 11%.
— Tom Hauser (@5hauser) June 12, 2014
Naturally it would appear that the Johnson and Zellers camps are most pleased. The spin from the Johnson camp is that not a lot of primary voters have yet been informed that he is the GOP endorsed candidate, thus that will give him the upper hand among the overall GOP electorate. But then you have the Zellers faithful touting the fact their candidate didn't even attempt to secure the party nod yet he's already at the top of the heap. That, and that his record as House Speaker will ultimately help carry the day. Heck, even some of the Seifert and Honour folks expressed slight optimism in their respective messages bringing in the majority of the 22% of undecided voters.
One factor to consider is DFL voters looking to potentially cause chaos. Since the Dems control all statewide offices in Minnesota, the incumbents have little to no opposition in a primary with the exception of State Auditor Rebecca Otto being challenged by former House member Matt Entenza. As such, there's little incentive for Dem voters to turn out to the polls for their party's primary (ballots can only contain votes cast for one party). Since there's no party registration in this state, DFLers are well within their rights to cast an all GOP ballot. So could we see a scenario in Minnesota where Dems attempt to cast votes for whom they deem as having the slimmest chance to oust Gov. Mark Dayton? Certainly. But it's impossible to decipher if it would be enough to actually have a significant impact.
Regardless, we as Minnesota Republicans are finding ourselves in uncharted waters with this kind of high profile primary election. Given we have a little more than eight weeks before we cast our votes, the fun is just beginning.