Voters will have more than two dozen choices to fill two Rosemount City Council seats, and tonight is their chance to have their questions answered: What do the candidates stand for? What is their vision for Rosemount? And, of course, how the heck are they going to make an impression during a one-hour candidates' forum?

The city of just over 20,000 saw a last-minute flood of candidates, with 29 people throwing their hats in the ring by Sept. 9, the last day council hopefuls could file for the office. Three later dropped out, and a fourth -- the lone incumbent, Mike Baxter -- is withdrawing from the race after he was appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty last week as a judge for Le Sueur County.

Organizers of the candidate forum tonight are working to cram as many speeches as they can into the time slot; each will probably end up with about two minutes to make their case, said Ruthe Batulis, president of the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce that sponsors the event.

As of Monday, 13 candidates had replied to the chamber to confirm their attendance, Batulis said. She expects a few more candidates to drop in during the forum to give their two minutes. If the speeches end early, Batulis said, attendees may have the chance to talk to candidates individually.

Jeannette Bach, a research manager at the League of Minnesota Cities, said the number of candidates is "amazing." Although the organization doesn't keep track of the number of filings for individual cities, Rosemount's number stands out, Bach said.

With so many people in the running, residents who want to compare and contrast the candidates before then will have their work cut out for them.

It may take voters a few minutes to make heads or tails of the long list of names when they cast their votes, but election officials said the unusually high candidate turnout isn't causing them any problems.

All the names will fit on the front of the ballot, and the order they appear will be determined by drawing names out of a hat, said Kevin Boyle, manager of the Dakota County Property, Taxation and Records Department.

Why all the interest? Some candidates said controversy over the city threatening to use eminent domain in a downtown redevelopment project has stirred up citizens.

"There's a lot of feeling in this town that the residents aren't being heard, and if they are being heard, it's like they're being heard with closed ears," said Barry Lindahl, who was No. 21 to file.

Jeannine Aquino • 952-882-9056