Anoka County Commissioner Dan Erhart was dismayed when he first saw the results of November's presidential election. He was delighted that Barack Obama had won, but disappointed -- though not surprised -- to learn that Obama did not carry Anoka County.
"This county is moving to the right and that's threatening the progressive things we're trying to do," Erhart said recently.
Erhart cited election results by conservatives in Ham Lake, Ramsey, Oak Grove and Andover. But Ham Lake Mayor Paul Meunier, whose progressive ideals have long clashed with a conservative City Council, wonders if the county's political climate has changed much in recent years.
"The Ham Lake City Council has remained the same," said Meunier, who is a favorite among county officials but whose ideas often fall on deaf ears at council meetings. In November's election, two new council members were elected -- two conservatives who replaced two conservatives.
"The City Council has always been conservative," Meunier said.
And Anoka County voting for Republican Sen. John McCain while the state of Minnesota voted for Obama may indicate a different trend -- one showing that there are bastions of conservatism even in the metro area of a state that has produced liberal thinkers such as Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, Walter Mondale and Paul Wellstone.
While Obama captured 54 percent of the vote in Minnesota to 44 percent for McCain, Anoka County voters favored McCain by 50 percent to Obama's 48 percent.
But is Anoka County that much different from other suburban counties in the metro area?
In Sherburne, Carver and Wright counties, 58 percent of the voters chose McCain, according to statistics compiled by the secretary of state's office and furnished by Anoka County elections manager Rachel Smith. In Carver County, 57 percent chose McCain, and in Scott County it was 54 percent for McCain.
Outside of Hennepin County, where Obama took 63 percent of the vote, and Ramsey County, where Obama won 65 percent, most metro counties chose McCain. The exceptions were Dakota and Washington counties, in which Obama won 52 and 51 percent of the vote, respectively.
Has Anoka County grown more conservative since the 2004 presidential election? In that election, Democratic Sen. John Kerry won 51 percent of the state vote, while President Bush captured 48 percent. But in Anoka County, Bush won 53 percent to Kerry's 46 percent.
Rhonda Sivarajah, a county commissioner who has had political disagreements with Erhart, noted that Anoka County has always been "pretty independent."
"I think we're unique. The people in Anoka County don't adhere to one party or another. They're more interested in the person than the party."
Paul Levy • 612-673-4419