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Region's primary battles take shape

By Lenora Chu

lchu@postbulletin.com

On Sept. 10, primary ballots in southeastern Minnesota legislative contests will feature only two battles -- both between Independence Party candidates for state Senate seats.

All other legislative seats will be uncontested through the Nov. 5 general election.

Primary races

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In Senate District 30, an incumbent senator and a former Constitution Party member will face off for the Independence slot on November's ballot.

Sen. Sheila Kiscaden, a former Republican, recently converted to the Independence Party and will be seeking re-election to District 30. The district, formerly an urban Rochester district, was reconfigured under Minnesota's redistricting plans to include rural areas and townships to the city's east.

Howard Ives, an airline pilot and former deputy chairman of Minnesota's Constitution Party, filed Tuesday under the IP label for the same seat.

Whoever wins the primary will face attorney Rich Wright, the DFL-endorsed candidate, and former Olmsted County GOP chairman Lynn Zaffke in the general election.

The other Independence face-off will occur in Senate District 27, which includes Austin and Albert Lea.

Terry Kelley, a former KAAL-TV anchor, and Jennifer Leeann Ney, both of Austin, will vie for the IP slot in the general election. The winner will face the Republican incumbent, Sen. Grace Schwab of Albert Lea, and DFLer Dan Sparks, a loan officer with Austin's Farmers and Merchants Bank, in November.

Other Rochester legislative races

Because redistricting has divided Rochester's urban core into two distinct districts, the city's representation in the Senate will undergo a dramatic change this year.

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Instead of a single senator who will speak for the whole of Rochester, as Kiscaden has done since 1992, two senators will champion the city's interests in Districts 29 and 30, all the while taking care to balance the concerns of rural areas and townships encircled by the new district lines.

The Senate race in District 29, which includes northern Rochester, northwest Olmsted County and all of Dodge County, will be a three-way contest in November. Longtime DFL loyalist Jim Daley, an Olmsted County commissioner, recently joined the IP ticket. Dave Senjem of Rochester's city council will represent the Republican Party, and union electrician and labor leader Mike Tupper is the DFL's endorsed candidate.

In addition, the race for Rochester's two House seats will soon begin in earnest.

The battle to replace the retiring Rep. Dave Bishop, a Republican from southern Rochester, will be hotly contested this election year. Although there will be no primary battles, three candidates -- Dr. Joe Duffy of the Independence Party, Carla Nelson of the GOP and Tina Liebling of the DFL Party -- have filed and will appear on the November ballot.

All are vying to replace a 20-year veteran and one of the Legislature's more influential members, and Rochester voters will be watching closely.

Rep. Fran Bradley, who represents northern Rochester, faced no opponent in 1996 and 1998. In 2000, then-DFLer Gerry Werven challenged him in the general election but received only 35 percent of the vote. Werven later converted to the Republican Party. This year, the DFL Party has found another candidate in Rochester's Paul Munnis, who filed late Tuesday for District 29B.

In House District 30B, DFL-endorsed candidate Eric Starnes will challenge incumbent Republican Bill Kuisle. In the open House District 29A, a three-way race will be waged between Republican Randy Demmer, DFLer Rodney Peterson and IP candidate Dan Raaen.

Olmsted County races

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Because more than two candidates have filed for county commissioner posts in Districts 2, 5 and 6, primary contests will be held in these races.

In the 2nd District, Kenneth Brown, Jeffrey Gustafson and Gerry Werven will vie for two spots on the November ballot. In the 5th District, which is an open seat due to commissioner Jim Daley's bid for a Senate seat, four candidates will compete in the primary -- James Bier, Pat Farrell, Darryl Gallagher and Neil Melquist. Similarly, four hopefuls -- Frank Borchardt, Jean Michaels, Dave Perkins and Cory Sorgenfrie -- will contend for two spots on November's 6th District ballot.

In races with no primary challengers, Mike Podulke, Matt Flynn and Jeff Thompson are running without opponents for re-election as county commissioners in the 1st, 4th and 7th districts. In the 3rd District, incumbent commissioner Paul Wilson will be challenged by Joe Ericksen.

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