Much of the attention heading into the Aug. 11 primary has focused on DFL incumbents facing serious challenges. The battle between first-term U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and Antone Melton-Meaux has become one of the most expensive and closely watched congressional races in the nation. A number of prominent DFL legislators are seen as vulnerable to losses.
But a handful of contested legislative primaries are fueling tense political battles on the Republican side, too.
In Carver County, one of the most conservative parts of the Twin Cities metro, Chanhassen Council Member Julia Coleman and Victoria Mayor Tom Funk are locked in a heated contest for the seat held by state Sen. Scott Jensen, a Chaska Republican stepping down at the end of the term. Neither candidate secured the party’s endorsement, leading both to ramp up attacks and efforts to court GOP voters.
Law and order has emerged as a top theme for both campaigns. Funk’s videos slam DFL leaders for not doing enough to stop the Twin Cities from “burning to the ground, literally” during unrest that followed George Floyd’s death. Coleman touts her father’s career as a Ramsey County deputy and an endorsement from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officer Association.
The race has taken on a more bitter, and personal, tone in the final stretch. Funk doubled down on his conservative record and attacked Coleman, the daughter-in-law of former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, as “a pushover who just wants to be a career politician.”
Coleman, who has Jensen’s endorsement, denounced false attacks and name-calling as she defended her own conservative bona fides. She argues her profile as a millennial mother has broader appeal, especially among young families moving to the area from the Twin Cities. She recently filed a police report over stolen lawn signs.
Attacks are also flying in the GOP primary for a state House seat that hugs Lake Minnetonka. Minnetonka Beach City Council member Andrew Myers secured the GOP’s endorsement to take on freshman DFL Rep. Kelly Morrison in the suburban swing district. But some conservative activists have lined up behind Marianne Stebbins, the state chairwoman of Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign. One outside group supporting Stebbins has sent mailers comparing the GOP-endorsed rival to progressive Democrats like Omar and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Another tough fight is in Shakopee, where a Republican rematch is underway. Bob Loonan and Erik Mortensen are both seeking the GOP nomination to run against DFL state Rep. Brad Tabke, a top GOP target. Loonan, a former legislator, has the backing of House Republicans. Mortensen hopes activist support can deliver a repeat of his 2018 primary win. Just as in the Chaska Senate race, neither candidate secured the endorsement.
Some GOP incumbents, including Senate Majority Leaders Paul Gazelka and Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, have attracted challengers of their own. But most sitting Republicans are favored to win their primaries.