Same targets, messages in Senate race
ST. PAUL - The U.S. Senate candidates are sprinting toward Nov. 4, but it may be Minnesota voters who grow tired during the next eight weeks of hearing what they have been told for months.
Fresh off primary victories, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken on Wednesday talked about debates and ramped up their campaigns, but returned to the same arguments that so far have framed the race.
Meanwhile, ex-Sen. Dean Barkley found himself in the middle of it all after defeating six fellow Independence Party candidates in the Tuesday election. Barkley, who was appointed to a brief U.S. Senate term by Gov. Jesse Ventura after the late Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a 2002 airplane crash, renewed his key campaign message, too. Franken and Coleman "are the same old, same old," he said.
Voters also settled primary contests in a handful of U.S. House races Tuesday, while close results in a Minnesota Supreme Court contest triggered a statewide recount.
Franken hit the campaign trail Wednesday morning, speaking in St. Paul before touring southern Minnesota cities to tout a college tuition relief plan. He was coming off a primary victory in which he gained 65 percent of the vote and beat six opponents.
"We know the country's been going in the wrong direction," Franken told supporters at the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Community Center. "We know that our government has been taken over by special interests. And in 55 days, we can choose to take it back."
"It's the choice of more of the same and a new direction," he added in a speech billed as new but that included many of the themes Franken has campaigned on for more than a year.
Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan said Wednesday they have no plans to deviate from continuing to emphasize the senator's record of service. The campaign unveiled three new television ads to back that up; the ads feature Minnesotans who support Coleman.
Coleman said in an interview the key issue for voters will be deciding who can bridge the "bitter partisan divide affecting Washington."
"I think Minnesotans will have a very clear choice in this campaign," he said.
Coleman, in Washington Wednesday, stressed that he will target the nearly 30 percent of Democrats who favored attorney Priscilla Lord Faris over Franken.
"There are a lot of Priscilla Lord Faris voters I'd love to welcome to my side," Coleman said after he won his primary with 91 percent of the vote. "Clearly there's a big chunk of Democrats out there who have concerns about Franken's experience, have concerns about his positions."
"Those folks are going to be looking for a home," Coleman added.
Franken said those Faris voters will rally behind his campaign.
"I think all Democrats will come home," he said.
Franken and Coleman said there should be around four debates in their race and that Barkley should be included. Barkley, who wants six debates, said he hopes to do well.
Most debate sponsors already have invited him, he said. He is picking up 8 percent in polls, and most debates require a candidate to have 5 percent to be invited.
The conclusion of the primary marked the beginning of other general election races around the state.
Republican Brian Davis of Rochester topped state Sen. Dick Day of Owatonna in their race to challenge freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz in southern Minnesota's 1st Congressional District. Davis beat Day 67 percent to 33 percent.
The result was closer in the GOP 7th Congressional District primary. Western Minnesota voters favored Glen Menze over Alan Roebke 52 percent to 48 percent. Menze will take on U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a Detroit Lakes Democrat who beat Menze handily in 2000.
Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson and challenger Tim Tingelstad, a Bemidji resident and Detroit Lakes native, will face off in the general election.
Things are less clear in the other Supreme Court race on Tuesday's primary ballot.
A statewide manual recount is needed after Justice Lorie Gildea advanced to the general election with more than 53 percent of the vote, but her two closest challengers were separated by less than one-half a percentage point.
That automatically triggered a recount, which Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said should take place next week.
The recount is paid for with state tax dollars and requires help from local election officials, Ritchie said.
"Basically it's a hand count with eyeballs in each county," he said.
A recount also is expected in a state House District 3A race in northern Minnesota, where two Independence Party candidates were separated by only three votes out of 143 cast.
The last statewide recount came in the 1962 governor's race. Given how close some believe the U.S. Senate race might be in November, Ritchie said the judicial recount could be good practice.
"This is a really good way for us to make sure we have all systems in place to do this," he said.
In another congressional contest, Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann from the 6th District coasted to victory over challenger Aubrey Immelman, earning 86 percent of the vote. She faces Democrat El Tinklenberg in the general election to represent the district that includes eastern and northern Twin Cities suburbs and communities northwest to St. Cloud.
Franken is campaigning full time for the Senate seat. Coleman will campaign in Minnesota on weekends until Congress recesses at the end of the month, Sheehan said. Then Coleman will resume a full-time campaign schedule.
Barkley said he plans to split his time the rest of this month between raising money to buy commercials and seeking free news stories. He said he would travel to every city where there is a newspaper or broadcast station in an attempt to get stories written about him.
While Barkley will not compete with the millions that Coleman and Franken have raised, he plans to air a radio commercial featuring Ventura. Closer to election day, he said, he will run television spots.
Barkley plans to use the same advertising man who helped Ventura win in 1998. The
Ventura spent $400,000 to win the governor's job; Barkley plans to raise $300,000 to $500,000.
Barkley is aiming for many of the same voters Ventura captured. He said that the challenge will be to make sure they know about him.
State Capitol reporter Don Davis contributed to this story.