Today is primary election day in Minnesota and it's remarkably slow. In my little corner of St. Paul we'll be lucky to see a 10% turnout. Some precincts will be lucky to break 5%. On the whole, not a big deal or a crises of democracy. Very few races are even being contested. Both races for the DFL (US Congress and State House) are featuring unopposed incumbents. One of the two Republican races is uncontested as well.
The other Republican race, for US Representative, does feature two candidates. Including Patrice Bataglia, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the MN State Fair. I can personally attest she's a fresh, dynamic and exciting candidate. Endorsed by the GOP, born in St. Paul, now a Dakota County Commissioner, formerly a bar owner, before than a waitress at Mancini's, and currently married to a St. Paul Fireman. All the qualifications of true blue St. Paul girl (who just happens to now reside in Mendota Heights).
She's running against Jack Shepard. He's a former Uptown dentist, currently a fugitive from the law on an arson charge (his office was allegedly torched to destroy evidence of welfare fraud), previously convicted of felony sexual assault and drug possession.
Despite his inability to actually hold office (based on his parolee status) and efforts by the Secretary of State to remove him, Shepard remains on the ballot - thanks to the intervention of Democratic partisan attorneys general of Ramsey, Dakota, and Washington counties.
Obviously, Battaglia is the preferred candidate of the overwhelming majority of Republicans and in a fair election test among the partisans, she'll win in crushing fashion. But the primary election system in Minnesota isn't exactly a fair test of Republican partisan preferences. Anyone can vote in the race - as long as they vote in the Republican races exclusively (for example, one cannot vote for DFL candidates and Republican candidates). This brings up the ugly specter of Democrats crossing over to vote in the Republican race, in order to elect a weaker candidate to run against incumbent Betty McCollum in November.
Although this is always a hypothetical problem in an open primary voting system, practically it doesn't have much chance of success. Most Democratic partisans will want to vote in their own party, to make sure their preferred candidate moves on to the general election. But in this race - where their aren't any contested DFL races on the ballot - there is no reason for DFL'ers to vote within their own party. Those candidates are already going to move on no matter what. Given this, the more advantageous move would be to cripple the opposition instead.
With such a low voter turnout (sub 10%, a few thousand people), it won't take very many crossovers to change the outcome, guarantee McCollum another term, and humiliate the Republican party. With such a low turnout, it guarantees the end result will be close. Hugh Hewitt reminds us of the historic consequences of having a close election when Democrats are involved.
The moral of this story, St. Paul Republicans, get out and vote for Patrice Bataglia. Polls close at 8 PM.