By Mark Fischenich
The Free Press
Democratic leaders hoped Tuesday's House District 19A primary election would be a mere formality with voters echoing the preference of DFL activists at a party endorsing convention 10 days earlier.
Voters did exactly that, sending North Mankato resident and Minnesota State University Prof. Clark Johnson on to the Feb. 12 special election where he will face Republican Allen Quist and Independence Party candidate Tim Gieseke. The winner will replace former state Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, who resigned his seat earlier this month after taking a job in Chicago.
Three other Democrats were on the ballot, but all three -- rural North Mankato farmer Karl Johnson, St. Peter Mayor Tim Strand and North Mankato educator Robin Courrier -- had agreed to suspend their campaigns after Clark Johnson was endorsed. All publicly encouraged Democrats to vote for the endorsee.
But Johnson's road to victory Tuesday took a very strange turn after results began to be posted on the Minnesota Secretary of State's website. He was holding a lead over Karl Johnson, who had some supporters continuing to call for voters to support him over Clark Johnson even after the endorsing convention.
Then the numbers for Kasota and Kasota Township came in showing a massive voter turnout of more than 500 votes in the otherwise lightly attended election with virtually all voting for Strand. That put Strand on top by nearly 300 votes -- but only for a few minutes.
The Kasota numbers were soon corrected. As it turned out, 20 people in Kasota and Kasota Township voted Tuesday rather than 519, and Strand received one vote there as opposed to 499.
With all precincts in, Clark Johnson had 641 votes (66 percent), Karl Johnson had 252 (26 percent), Strand had 51 (5 percent) and Courrier had 23 (2 percent).
Quist, who easily won the GOP endorsement on Jan. 10 and was the only Republican on the primary ballot, picked up 105 votes. Gieseke, who was unopposed for the IP endorsement, won 55 votes.