By Mark Fischenich
Free Press Staff Writer
— Democrats will face the only primary election in the special election process to fill a vacant state House seat that covers Nicollet County, part of Mankato and the Kasota area of Le Sueur County.
Tuesday was the last day that potential candidates could get their name on the ballot, and when the five-day filing period closed at 5 p.m. Allen Quist was the sole Republican to file and Tim Gieseke was the lone Independence Party candidate.
Four DFLers signed up — a number that will be reduced to a single nominee during a Jan. 29 primary election.
Quist, a retired St. Peter farmer who received the GOP endorsement on Thursday, and Gieseke, a rural Nicollet farmer endorsed by the IP on Saturday, can continue to focus on campaigning for the Feb. 12 special election to fill the House District 19A seat.
Democrats, meanwhile, will be focused for two more weeks on choosing their candidate from between North Mankato educator Robin Courrier, Minnesota State University Professor Clark Johnson, North Mankato farmer Karl Johnson and St. Peter Mayor Tim Strand.
“We definitely are going to take advantage of that head start,” promised Peter Trocke, co-chairman of the Nicollet County Republican Party.
Democrats will attempt to rally around one of their candidates at an endorsing convention on Saturday as the party attempts to hold the seat left vacant with the resignation of three-term Rep. Terry Morrow, a St. Peter Democrat who quit the Legislature after accepting a job in Chicago.
But because the DFL scheduled their convention to fall after the conclusion of the filing period, non-endorsed Democratic candidates won’t be able to take the traditional action of not filing for the seat in a show of solidarity with the party’s endorsed candidate.
If the DFL delegates at Saturday’s convention manage to unify behind one of the four candidates, party leaders hope non-endorsed candidates will suspend their campaigns and even actively campaign for the endorsed candidate. There will be a primary election regardless, however, on Jan. 29 — so the party won’t know with certainty who their candidate will be against Quist and Gieseke until there’s just two weeks remaining before the special election.
Republicans also faced the threat of a primary after Le Sueur County Veterans Services Officer Jim Golgart said last week that he was considering continuing his campaign even after Quist was overwhelmingly endorsed by GOP activists. Ultimately, Golgart chose not to file for the office.
Trocke said Republicans have been organizing for the special election since Morrow’s pre-Christmas announcement that he was resigning, and he was optimistic about Quist’s chances regardless of what Golgart decided.
“I think our organization and our voter-ID effort and our get-out-the-vote effort will prevail in this special election,” Trocke said.
Quist, just after getting the endorsement, said he wouldn’t mind a primary election to keep his name in the news during the two weeks when the Democrats are settling on their candidate.
“It’s not necessarily good if Democrats get all of the attention with a primary and I’m kind of left in the shadows,” Quist said last week. But he added that the lack of a primary would make it easier to raise campaign donations.