LIVE BLOG: Following #MN08 and more on primary night 2018

This live blog is by Aaron Brown of, an author, columnist, radio producer and college instructor from Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. We’ll be following returns from the 2018 Minnesota Primary with special attention on the 8th Congressional District. Got tips? Contact Aaron here or leave a comment. Refresh often for the newest material.

More news coming soon …

10:51 — a few takeaways. The big story of the night went unreported here. Though not surprising to anyone who talked to an actual non-TV Republican, Jeff Johnson upset former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in the GOP gubernatorial race. He presents a much different challenge than Pawlenty for DFL nominee Tim Walz. In fact, I’d argue he’s more dangerous because he doesn’t have the Pawlenty record to run against. Could be a DFL year. Maybe doesn’t matter. But Republicans do have a chance statewide this year.

Radinovich won MN-8 because he ran the most complete campaign, not just because he had a lot of money. The money helped, no doubt. Had Lee had a little more money, enough to run TV ads district-wide, she’d be much closer. Ditto for Kennedy. Metsa, I don’t know what to say. He had enough money, but got whipped everywhere but his home House district. All I can guess is that in a low name-ID race, TV matters.

Money’s not everything. Grassroots isn’t everything. Both have their place. The best funded candidates don’t always win. Message matters, and the will of the people. But you’ve got to be able to convey your name and message to voters in order to have a chance.

It’s going to be a tough, drag-out fight in MN-8 this year.

I’ll have more in-depth analysis tomorrow. But for now, goodnight.

10:38 — Range cities are coming in now. Lislegard is up 2-1 on Hainey with more than half counted in 6B. It’s Lislegard.

10:29 — City of Virginia just reported. Lislegard did very well there. Well enough that if other Range cities are even close to those margins he’ll have it won.

Metsa’s old district is about half in now. He’s going to carry it around 50 percent to near 30 percent for Radinovich. His best hope is catching Kennedy for third place.

10:05 — Big numbers coming in from Radinovich’s former State House district. The biggest troves of Metsa votes on the eastern Mesabi will be inadequate for him to catch up. Lee’s margin of victory in Duluth will not be enough for her, either.

MINNESOTABROWN PROJECTION: Joe Radinovich wins the DFL nomination in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District.

He will face Republican Pete Stauber and independent Ray “Skip” Sandman in the Nov. 6 general election.

And this picture exists:

Joe Radinovich and fiancee Carly Melin were all smiles for this North Woods picture at Ranier, Minnesota. Just remember, understanding the 8th District requires us to know that the person who painted these sexy anthropomorphic moose bodies lives here, too.

10:00 — At ten bells, I’m waiting to see if anything weird happens in the south or the eastern Mesabi for Radinovich. Lislegard remains slightly ahead in 6B, though I think he’ll do even better in the Range cities. (The slow reporting Range cities). Hainey hanging in there. City of Virginia will be an interesting test in that race.

9:50 — Still very early in the only Iron Range legislative primary in HD6B, but a close race between Lislegard and Hainey so far. Lislegard is up 177-165.

9:45 — Getting some rough numbers out of Duluth. Lee will carry Duluth, but only by about six points over Radinovich. Nobody else in the mix.

9:42 — One interesting note — Murphy carried city of Duluth by about 800 votes. She needs more than that, but I don’t think many would have predicted that.

9:34 — My home precinct of Balsam Township (Itasca) came in for Radinovich. He carried 54 to Lee’s 21, followed by 10 for Metsa, 9 for Kennedy and 3 for Sorensen. The only remarkable thing to say about the 8th is that Radinovich is winning everywhere. I expect Metsa will win some of his home precincts, just like Lee may win something in Carlton County. But I’m very close to a call here.

Kirsten Kennedy, bar none the funniest and most fearless candidate I talked to in the race. I don’t think enough people got to know her. She’s still running in a surprising third, so far.

9:24 — Well, for what it’s worth Swanson/Nolan will carry the 8th handily, but looking at statewide numbers there just isn’t enough votes left for them to catch up to the leaders.

9:15 — A little lull here. I’m also watching State House 6B, where Shaun Hainey faces David Lislegard. Early returns, mostly from unorganized precincts, show Hainey up 101-81, but we’ve got to see some of the Iron Range towns to know how things really stand there.

8:56 — Wow, most of Cass County is in and Metsa is in fifth. JoeRad near 50 percent. Kennedy doing better but still way back. Lee’s running out of places to catch up.

Michelle Lee in the land of Oz, which appears to have been in Grand Rapids all this time.

8:46 — Some early numbers on SOS from Koochiching County (borderland). Radinovich at 42 percent there, followed by 35 percent for Lee. Metsa and others badly trailing. Put it this way, if someone other than Joe Radinovich is going to win #MN08 they’ve got to win *somewhere* soon.

8:42 — More of the same from the Hibbing airport precinct. JoeRad 60; Metsa 38; Lee 28; Kennedy 7. In governor, Swanson 87; Murphy 26; Walz 21. That’s all pre-absentee. Swanson over 50 percent on the Range.

8:35 — Another Hibbing report. Ward 2, Precinct A. This is before absentee ballots. JoeRad 119, Metsa 68; Lee 52; Kennedy 13; Sorensen 8.

Same precinct, Swanson 145; Walz 58; Murphy 48. So if you’re watching Swanson trailing in the statewide totals right now, expect her to make up ground when the 8th District comes in.

8:31 — Report from Kelly Lake (Hibbing). Radinovich 49 to Metsa 12, others trailing. That’s another indication of a good night for Radinovich. He’s now overperformed in a Duluth and an Iron Range precinct. Long night ahead though. No official reports to the Secretary of State yet.

8:21 — Report from Duluth Heights in #MN08: Radinovich 122; Lee 110; Metsa 22. Others single digits. That’s a very good sign for Radinovich.

Same precinct for governor shows Swanson at 133, followed by Murphy at 86 and Walz at 70. A sign of Swanson’s strength in the 8th to come?

8:01 — I still get excited about election night. It’s like when you spend all day hooking up Christmas lights and you flip the switch to see if they all turn on. You can’t change the outcome. You can only see what it is.

A lot of folks talking about the huge turnout in Minneapolis where we have an open #MN05 race. More than 75,000 votes before the end of polling. As I’ve said I would predict a high number in #MN08, but I’m not sure if it will match the 5th. Which district turned out more will have a big influence on the DFL governor’s race.

Meantime, Secretary of State Steve Simon says breaking the all time record for statewide primary turnout is within reach.

7:30 p.m. — Here begins the live blog. Polls close at 8 p.m. First results will come about an hour later.

Polling stations on the Iron Range report well above average turnout. Statewide, this election will easily break the record for primary turnout in August, and may break even bigger records.

Who does that benefit? The winners. That’s who.

I’ve got a few sources around the 8th District who will call in some local precincts. If you’ve got tips, contact me. I’m basing my analysis tonight on the benchmarks set in my post this morning. I think 30,000 votes takes the cake in the 8th District DFL primary.

I noticed something reviewing my 2012 live blog from the last DFL primary in MN-8. Rick Nolan, who won the race, started slow and finished third on the Iron Range. Big numbers from the west and south ultimately propelled Nolan to victory. But early reports from the Range made him seem vulnerable. Those big Range numbers for Jeff Anderson succeeded only in moving Anderson from a distant third into a closer third. Tarryl Clark, who raised the most money and ran the most ads, finished a surprisingly close-but-no-cigar second place.

Remember, in 2012 Nolan was broke and considered too liberal for the district but nevertheless won in a strong DFL year. Nothing is static in this world.

Six years later I’ve got a better sense of what votes mean based on where they are. If you’re still using a 1974 playbook on this district you need to throw it out. Check that, recycle it. Recycling is a thing now.

Throughout the evening I’ll be sharing funny photos of the MN-8 candidates. Feel free to send your own. I would like to begin with Iron Range lawmaker Jason Metsa’s attempt to comfort a frightened calf.

The bleat goes on for Jason Metsa as he comforts this frightened calf. Don’t worry little cow. It will be OK. I think? If turnout on the Iron Range is any indication, perhaps so (for Metsa, if not the calf).


  1. Chisholm ran out of ballots.

  2. 9:15PM. So far most state numbers are from the Minneapolis, with over 91% of CD5 counted and Khan called the winner. Walz is well ahead and Swanson way behind, but the Greater MN vote still to come. My wife says that Nolan is helping Swanson in CD8, and she is always right.

    St. Paul still to come also, which may help Murphy, who is not out at this time.

    In CD8, Metsa seems to be underperforming, even on the Range. That not only is eliminating him, but would end Lee’s hope of sliding in following a split of votes between Metsa and Joe R.

    • With Walz ahead of Murphy with Minneapolis counted and Southern MN still to be counted, I think it’s pretty safe to call it for Walz.

  3. What the heck did Metsa spend his money on anyway? I saw TV commercials, Facebook ads, and got a mailer for Radinovich, but saw absolutely nothing from Metsa. Only other candidate I remember seeing anything at all for is Lee (Facebook ads). But Metsa raised a lot of money and I never saw a thing.

    Walz is definitely the strongest candidate for the Dems. He’ll split the Southern MN vote that the Repubs need to win handily to have a shot statewide. Looks like he caught a break with Johnson ahead in the Republican primary. While Johnson is a nice guy and I like him, his lack of fundraising ability is very concerning. Especially since he was the candidate in 2014 and should have access to a pretty good list of names.

    • todd….I don’t like metsa or radinovich so take this with a grain of salt. metsa spent his money paying the people who were working for him(which is admirable) but Joe spent his money on getting more money from creeps( which is not admirable). Probably will not matter come November when the creeps return to their republican roosts.

  4. David Gray says

    At mid-afternoon we were showing unusually heavy turnout for a primary. I imagine competitive races in both parties helped spur that turnout.

  5. The results in most of the races raise a few points.

    First, the November election is shaping up as a referendum on Trump. GOP winners, except perhaps for Karin Housley, all won by moving as close to Trump as possible. Up here, voters will get a Trump-No Trump battle for governor and Congress, with both Johnson and Stauber mirroring the President (although Stauber’s surrogates at the Duluth News Tribune, between lengthy articles praising how much fun he is at a barbecue, did publish an endorsement of him emphasizing the few patches of light between him and Trump.) Just how this will play in November remains to be seen, with a lot depending on what happens nationally and internationally between now and then.

    Second, the decisive thing in the DFL CD8 primary turned out to be the performance of Metsa. This can’t really be called a collapse, since there is no evidence that he had the support to begin with, but his performance gave Radinovich the votes to jog home easily, taking three quarters of the moderate Democratic votes and some votes of more progressive Dems who were worried about the viability of Lee in November. Lee did about what might have been expected, although she probably lost votes to Kennedy in the end. But even combining Kennedy and Lee’s votes and throwing in Sorenson’s, there was not enough to stop Joe R, who would have still won. Credit has to be given to Radinovich as well, who ran hard, worked hard, raised money hard, and generally managed to move from being just one of a quartet of almost totally unknown candidates (perhaps excepting Lee, with her background) to a victory that was more decisive than Nolan’s in 2012.

    Third, a lot of Democrats voted against Radinovich. He has to get them back to win. On the plus side, Stauber’s closeness to Trump, his stands on health care, the tax program, various social issues, and generally the whole political spectrum makes for a strong argument that even if you are a committed leftist, and angry with the mainstream of the party, if you oppose Radinovich, you are endorsing Trump and a Tea Party right winger, and cutting millions of Americans adrift on a raft of issues from health care and immigration to civil rights and women’s rights. Will left wing people find it worthwhile to throw millions of people off of Medicaid and separate families at the border in order to punish Radinovich and the rest of the regulars? That remains to be seen.

    Fourth, non-ferrous mining. Opponents of mining lost big on Tuesday. Every single major candidate in both parties who won is a supporter of copper-nickel, and there is no viable place to turn in this election. If you are a one issue voter, placing environmental issues above everything else, you are going to have to consider whether you want to elect people who are even worse on the environment than the winning DFLers and who are way to the right on any other progressive issue you can imagine — Stauber, Housley, Johnson — or if you are willing to vote based on a comparison of the viable candidates. See discussion in number three. Before the election, the opponents of non-ferrous mining had only the courts to hope would help their cause. After the election, the same is true. This will be a hard, agonizing choice for some people.

    Fifth, where’s Carly? Joe Randinovich’s fiancee (see the picture Aaron posted) is an extremely effective and experienced campaigner in her own right. If I were one of the many Democratic campaign consultants who are boarding morning flights from DC and elsewhere today in order to start the coordinated effort to elect Joe R, the first thing I would say is “turn Melin loose.” Radinovich can effectively double his personal exposure by sending out Carly as a surrogate. Unless there is something going on that I don’t understand, that should start — well, let them rest today and go out to dinner and see “Crazy Rich Asians” tonight — this weekend.

    Finally, Kennedy. As Aaron says, everyone who met or saw Kirsten Kennedy came away impressed. In many of the forums, she was the clear winner, and at worst she always held her own. She is articulate and can think on her feet. She got a reputation for not only being knowledgeable and personable, but for being willing to really listen to and actually think about — rather than spit back canned responses — what people ahd to say. Unless she is totally burned out, she has, IMO, a big future ahead. She lives in an area where both her state representative and her state senator are Republicans, so a run for one of those in 2020 is definitely possible. If Stauber wins, some people might be thinking about her as a possible 2020 opponent, with time to get a more viable campaign in order. One big thing that hurt her, I think, was the fact that she comes from so far south, in an area that most of us have trouble thinking of as part of CD8. In 2020, the likelihood that she will be redistricted out of whatever becomes of CD8 when it is dismembered after Minnesota losing its eighth seat in the redistricting for the 2022 elections might color her future. Perhaps she will end up taking on Tom Emmer in his new district in 2022.

    And another thing: Stauber would be a major problem for redistricting as well if he were to win. The GOP would obviously like to protect him as a youngish new Congressman. It will take a real masterpiece of gerrymandering to protect him, given that he lives in the Duluth area, in a Minnesota with only seven congressional seats. I can imagine how to draw the district (put Duluth on a tongue sticking out of an East Central Minnesota district, putting the Range into what is now CD7,) but it would be a challenge that would require complete control of redistricting. On the other hand, if Radinovich were to win, the DFL redistricting effort will be working hard to protect a rep who could spend forty to fifty years in Congress.

    Let the games begin.

  6. And, once again, the DFL endorsement for governor proves useless.

    Plus there is almost no doubt that Swanson collapsed in the last couple of weeks, following revelations of dirty pool during her management of the State Attorney General’s office, continuing the great tradition of Mike Hatch, who was her mentor. She led in the polls as recently as a couple of weeks ago, but fell to a weak third in the election. Walz obviously benefitted. Given Murphy’s performance, it is not unlikely that if Swanson’s campaign had remained strong, Murphy may well have won by slipping between a split vote of moderates by Walz and Swanson.

    The polls did not do well with the GOP race either. There, the endorsement by Trump and the pattern of who turned out and who didn’t won for Johnson. Everyone needs to keep in mind: turnout patterns trump polls. Voters who answer polls but then sit home lead to confounding results.

    However, polling does suggest that Johnson will be a better candidate than Pawlenty for the GOP. Horse races with Walz were slightly closer for Johnson than for T-Paw, who has just too much baggage left over from his performance as governor for most Minnesotans overlook. Johnson, of course, has willingly loaded Trump on his back, so we will see how that works out.

  7. Joe musich says

    No mention of the aggravated turn out for the two parties ? It will be a factor don’t you think ?

    • Not certain what you mean by aggravated turnout. If you mean “level of enthusiasm” or “level of motivation due to anger by voters,” I think you are definitely right. Turnout for the primary was at levels above turnouts in the last 20 years, and in CD8 multiple times larger than in 2014.

      Turnout between the two parties was unbalanced. Although in general statewide elections in MN the DFL often tends to get more votes than the GOP, in this election DFL turnout was nearly twice the turnout for the GOP, even with the hot race for governor. It may well be that the lower turnout in the GOP primary — reflecting high numbers of highly involved conservative voters but low numbers of Republican leaning more centrist or independent voters — helped Johnson overcome a deficit in pre-election polling, although Johnson had been gaining on Pawlenty in the polls over the last month.

  8. Joe musich says

    Damn auto correct ….aggregated totals for the parties in the eighth is where I was going. From other sources it is definite the DFL turnout was much higher.

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