LIVE BLOG: Primary Night on the Iron Range

House 6A DFL candidates face off in an Iron Range primary election today. (PHOTO: Melissa Scaia)

House 6A DFL candidates face off in an Iron Range primary election today. (PHOTO: Melissa Scaia)

Welcome to the Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016 MinnesotaBrown primary election live blog. Your intrepid host Aaron Brown will provide analysis of Iron Range results throughout the evening. We’ll pay close attention to the House 6A DFL contest and St. Louis County commissioner races.

There will be more to write in coming days, but we can say that Julie Sandstede got the victory scenario that I laid out in my post yesterday.

I didn’t think that her scenario was most likely, but it’s also clear that Whiteside just didn’t have the guns we thought he did. It also shows that DeNucci needed to do better in Hibbing and Chisholm. Had he done so, this would have been a shootout between him and Sandstede.

Turnout was dismal. It appears that Rich Puhek’s projection of 4,000-4,500 votes in the DFL primary will fall closer to 3,800 or so. Nevertheless, Sandstede passed the 1,500-vote threshold he projected as the win number. Way to go, Rich! Nice work.

As it stands, It’s Sandstede over Whiteside by about 200 votes, with DeNucci trailing in third.

This is a victory for a more experienced candidate, a music teacher, a political outsider, yet a staunch union leader in one of the most pro-labor seats in Minnesota. It’s a win for a pro-life Democrat who nevertheless says she’ll support funding for Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive health. This will be a tough position for her in the general election, but given the DFL lean of the district she is likely to enter the legislature as an ally for pro-life causes on her side of the aisle.

Sandstede will face Republican Rob Farnsworth, who is one of the best candidates the GOP has nominated in recent memory. So nothing should be taken for granted, though Sandstede and the DFL is heavily favored in this central Iron Range district.

MinnesotaBrown projects Julie Sandstede of Hibbing to win the House 6A DFL primary. This marks a major political upset over Tom Whiteside, the favorite of many DFL party regulars.

Remaining precincts will bring up Ben DeNucci’s totals, but I am now confident he won’t be able to make up the margin with Sandstede. He and Whiteside are fighting for second.

Chisholm is in.

MinnesotaBrown projects Mike Jugovich of Chisholm and Melissa Scaia of Hibbing to advance in St. Louis County District 7 Commissioners race.

All of Hibbing is in on the SOS now. Sandstede has a 200-vote margin on Whiteside, and we now see that DeNucci has probably fallen too far behind to catch up. I’m waiting to see Chisholm and Bigfork.

In SD5, Justin Eichorn easily wins the Republican primary over Pedie Pederson.

House 6A again. This is Hibbing, with absentees, in total:

Sandstede, 832; Whiteside, 682; Denucci, 235; Thompson, 70.

A surprising and convincing win by Sandstede in her hometown, fending off the inside favorite. You can also see how if DeNucci had pulled just 200 more votes, his Itasca triumphs (happening now) would be putting him into the mix. As it is, I think he’ll fall just short. Still some variables on this one.

Update on the SLC7 race. Scaia now leads on the SOS site 34 percent to Jugovich at 32; Polcher 22; Rahja 12. That is PRE-Chisholm, so Jugovich will pull back ahead, but he’s not running away with it. When Chisholm is in I might be ready to make this call.

We’re getting parts of Itasca Co. on the SOS. DeNucci doing well. Another blowout in his hometown of Nashwauk, 15o to Sandstede’s 27 and others trailing. The SOS percentages are now Sandstede 36, Whiteside 30, DeNucci 27, Thompson 5.

VERY low turnout. I could see DeNucci passing Whiteside, but I don’t know how he catches up to Sandstede.

Last unofficial out of Hibbing, P11. Whiteside, 111; Sandstede, 134; Denuncci, 41; Thompson, 14.

P10 *unofficial* has Whiteside, 111; Sandstede, 134; Denucci, 41; Thompson, 14. In all likelihood Sandstede has won Hibbing and Chisholm. As the day began, I believed Whiteside would carry those towns.

SOS has Hibbing numbers now, though no P10 or P11 (the big ones). The total for the race at this point is Sandstede 41.4 percent to Whiteside 33.3 percent with about 46 percent of precincts in. Only a 150-vote margin. Watch for DeNucci to crawl back into this mix later in the night, but I don’t know if he has the horses to catch up. Could be close if turnout in Itasca was higher.

Over in SLC7 on the SOS site, Jugovich has almost 2-1 over Scaia, who is holding off Rahja and Polcher. Knowing what I know about Hibbing and Chisholm, we can probably predict that Jugovich is safe to go on, and Scaia is probable to advance in second place.

Not much there, but Sandstede wins Floodwood, the southernmost town in District 6A.

Mike Thompson has his first precinct win. The Republic of Kinney goes Thompson, 7; Sandstede, 2; Whiteside 1.

SOS has our first Itasca precinct, and it’s Keewatin. Ben DeNucci has 166 to Sandstede’s 23, and Whiteside’s 17. Another big wow. Shows you how DeNucci might not be totally out, even if he’s very disadvantaged on the eastern side of the district.

That result puts DeNucci ahead on the SOS site! But those numbers don’t include Hibbing, where we know DeNucci flopped.

Whiteside wins Buhl, 47-45 over Sandstede. That’s from SOS. Whiteside needs margins now, though. He needs to pile on votes somewhere because he’s in second.

Hibbing P9, unofficial, is a big wow. Sandstede, 165; Whiteside, 89; DeNucci, 17; Thompson, 8. As Rich Puhek pointed out earlier, that’s where both Whiteside and Sandstede live. Remember, I had Whiteside as the frontrunner.

In P4, Sandstede 50, Whiteside 40.

Hibbing P3 (Irongate Mall): Sandstede 42 to Whiteside 40. Others trailing. Again, these unofficials are pre-absentee. Just gives you a sense of where things are.

We’ve got unofficial returns from Chisholm.

In 6A, Sandstede, 246, Whiteside, 226; DeNucci, 118; Thompson 34.

Another impressive surprise for Sandstede. Still very close, though.

In SLC7, Jugovich cleans up Chisholm 387-162 over Scaia, but Scaia was a solid second.

Some of the tiny unorganized precincts are in, showing Sandstede winning. Not a lot of votes, but these rural areas often show the trend lines.

Unofficial returns from Hibbing P1 show Whiteside over Sandstede 31-19. Again, showing Hibbing as close. Puhek is right, Hibbing P9 will be informative indeed.

Here comes the Secretary of State website. French Township (that’s Side Lake) shows Sandstede with 53, Whiteside with 37, DeNucci 15 and Thompson 9. Another surprising win for Sandstede. A trend is forming.

Another unofficial tally (pre-absentees) from Hibbing P6: Whiteside 50, Sandstede 45, with the others far behind. I think we have a barnburner between Whiteside and Sandstede.

In Hibbing P5, we have unofficial returns (no absentees counted): Whiteside, 68; Sandstede, 114; Denucci, 28; Thompson, 10.

Julie Sandstede is doing well in Hibbing. DeNucci needs Herculean strength in Itasca County or he’s out.

In County Commissioner District 7, Hibbing P2 is Scaia, 19; Polcher, 14; Jugovich, 3; Rahja, 1. Hibbing P8, it’s Polcher 34, Scaia, 31; Jugovich, 29, Rahja 11. Still couldn’t say which two of the big three emerge here.

We have our first results in the House 6A DFL primary. Unofficial tallies from Hibbing Precinct 2 show Whiteside 20; Sandstede 11; DeNucci 2; Thompson 2. In Hibbing 8, Sandstede leads with  42 to Whiteside’s 38; Denuncci 11, and Thompson 4.

If Sandstede holds Whiteside even in Hibbing this could be interesting. DeNucci and Thompson are underperforming.

Still waiting on Northern MN results, but in the House 31B Republican primary, incumbent Tom Hackbarth is losing to endorsed challenger Cal Bahr.

Hackbarth is the guy who proposed the IRRRB bill last session that would have put the Iron Range economic development agency paid for by local mining revenue under control of the state legislature.

I’d like to think his constituents are punishing him for interfering in another region’s local issues, but in truth they are punishing him for not returning home with the still-beating heart of Tom Bakk.

Still waiting for results in our area. A good reminder that I’m using the same Secretary of State website as most people. If campaigns have any poll watchers who know more than I do, please pass along the information to aaronjbrown[AT] or PM @minnesotabrown.

No returns for a little while yet. I’ll also be watching the District 7 St. Louis County Commissioner race in which four candidates will be narrowed to two. What’s interesting about that race is that the candidate field appears as though it could be switched with the House 6A field.

You’ve got Chisholm Mayor Mike Jugovich, Advocates for Family Peace leader Melissa Scaia, Hibbing school board chair and county social worker Jeff Polcher and Chisholm City Councilor Mary Jo Rahja.

That’s a field with more experience and name-recognition than the people running for the legislature in the same approximate area.

My read is that Jugovich and Scaia will advance, though Polcher might be close. And I could be wrong. I’ll never get on cable news by saying that, but it’s true.

Polls are closing in Minnesota. This is my favorite part of any campaign. You can argue with morons, but you can’t argue with numbers.

Rich Puhek gave me a list of precincts he’s watching tonight for clues in the House 6A primary. It’s such a good list that I can’t top it. Here’s what Rich said:

Chisholm: Biggest single precinct. Julie and Evan [Sandstede] lived there for several years after getting married. They still attend church there. “Neutral” territory, but much of the notable DFL names in Chisholm
declared for Tom [Whiteside] early.

Buhl: Big pocket of votes, not sure how much attention campaigns paid to Buhl.

Hibbing P9: The most interesting single precinct in this race. One of Hibbing’s top 3 in voters. Wildcard in P9 are the 115 GOP voters. There’s no up-ballot GOP race to prevent crossing over, but there’s a non-partisan county race to pull them in to the polls.

P9 also has a core of Catholic DFL voters that show up to caucus night with pro-life resolutions. Those are safe Julie votes. One final wrinkle: Both Julie and Tom live in P9.

Nashwauk: How strong does the mayor [Ben DeNucci] do in his hometown? Who steals the rest?

Keewatin: More votes than Nashwauk, how will Ben do there? [United Steelworkers] endorsement [of Sandstede] may play huge.

Hibbing’s precincts 10 and 11 are the other big ones I’d mention. These are areas where I expect Whiteside to pile up votes, but if for any reason he doesn’t we’ll have a clue this is going to be close.

Also, settle your butts down, because Itasca County reports votes slowly. DeNucci will start the night behind because his base comes in late (typically).

I got some interesting perspective from Rich Puhek, who was Tony Sertich’s campaign manager during his time in the legislature. He’s an astute observer of the central Mesabi political scene. He figures there will be about 4,000-4,500 votes in today’s House 6A DFL primary. That’s based on three recent DFL primaries in this district.

What that means is that 1,500 votes might be enough to win. That’s assuming one candidate drifts to the rear. If two candidates emerge from the pack they would probably need 2,000 to win. I’ve got more from Rich that I’ll share when polls close.

I voted an hour ago in Balsam Township, Itasca County. Turnout was well south of 10 percent. All we’ve got on the ballot was the Supreme Court race everyone almost forgot and a Senate District 5 Republican primary that no one, not even me, talked about.

In the SD5 GOP primary endorsed candidate Justin Eichorn of Grand Rapids faces Pedie Pederson of Bemidji, an aspiring “perennial candidate” who ran against incumbent State Sen. Tom Saxhaug in 2010’s DFL primary. The only question here is whether the totally anemic turnout gives Eichorn any fits about this race. Probably not.

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