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Rochester mayor candidates prepare for next phase of campaign

Incumbent Norton will face challenger Noser on Nov. 8 ballot in citywide election.

Kim Norton and Britt Noser
Kim Norton and Britt Noser.
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ROCHESTER — Tuesday’s primary election results could produce some campaign shifts in Rochester’s mayoral election, but candidates say they will maintain their messages,

“It will be a much more active campaign in the general election than you saw from us in the primary,” incumbent Kim Norton said, citing official duties and training trips that took her away from the campaign in recent months.

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Norton, who is seeking a second term, received more than half the votes cast in Tuesday’s citywide primary, with challenger Britt Noser earning a spot on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Noser said he plans to continue to focus on the duties of local government and push to get away from a political agenda.

“I think that message worked well, so I want to focus on that,” he said, adding that his message has largely been about how his approach to the office would differ from Norton’s.

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He also said his campaign will seek to reach people who didn’t vote for him, while building existing grassroots support and building on efforts to engage with the city’s Sudanese and Somali communities.

He said it all will help overcome the more than 8,000-vote lead Norton saw Tuesday.

“I think that’s an overcomable margin, and I think the intensity of the campaigns from both Brad and myself probably created some additional urgency with the supporters of the current mayor,” he said.

Norton said she believes the margin is a reflection of negative comments made by her challengers during the primary campaigns.

“I think the election showed that people generally are positive about our community,” she said. ”I certainly heard that at Thursdays Downtown and out in our community, and the election results solidified that belief, that we are doing the right thing and need to continue being positive.”

With approximately a third of registered Rochester voters at the polls Tuesday, Norton received 13,626 of the 23,941 votes, giving her 56.9% of the vote.

Noser received 5,253 — or 21.9% — of the votes cast Tuesday.

While Norton points to Rochester recently being ranked third in a national livability report and receiving grants and attention aimed at positive change, Noser has been critical of what he calls the “Minneapolization” of Rochester.

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He said the cost of Destination Medical Center with limited visible benefits has led to a need for new balance and restraint in city government.

“There is so much unhappiness with DMC,” he said.

Brad Trahan, who landed 4,403 votes in the mayoral primary Tuesday, had sought to position himself in the center of what is considered a nonpartisan race, citing a desire to address issues of public safety and local business.

While earning 18.4% of the unofficial vote wasn’t enough to continue his challenge for the mayor’s seat, he said he hopes the “Listen, Learn, Lead” focus of his campaign can still make a difference in the months ahead.

Incumbent and three challengers are on the Aug. 9 ballot, which will narrow the field to two candidates. In preparation for Election Day, here's a look at the candidates' backgrounds and some of what they've said since deciding to run for office.

“I hope that message has resonated somewhere between Kim and Britt,” he said of efforts to reach out to gauge community interests and needs when making decisions for the city.

He said he doesn’t expect to watch city campaigns from the sidelines leading into November, but shied away from providing specific plans.

“I want to stay involved in this community,” he said. “We live in a good community, but I think there are areas we can improve on.”

Dean Koutsoukos, the third challenger for the mayor’s seat, said he’s not sure about his next steps, but called Tuesday’s results disappointing.

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“I’m not surprised I finished fourth, just how much lower it was,” he said of the 659 votes he received Tuesday.

A former city employee, he said he’s weighing options, but doesn’t see more politics in the future.

“With 30 years in the government, I may need a break,” he said.

Rochester City Council members are slated to review the election results at 4 p.m. Friday in council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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