By Mark Fischenich
The Free Press
Voters in Nicollet County and other parts of state House District 19A will want to keep their next three Tuesdays open.
A DFL primary election kicks things off a week from today, even though only one Democrat is still actively seeking the seat left vacant by the resignation of St. Peter Democratic Rep. Terry Morrow.
In two weeks, on Feb. 5, voters will get a chance -- and possibly their only chance -- to see the three candidates face off in person.
And in three weeks, on Feb. 12, the special election will be held to replace Morrow, a three-term lawmaker who announced last month that he was resigning to take a job in Chicago.
Johnson and Johnson
Area Democrats are working to get their unified campaign rolling, expressing confidence that Morrow's seat will stay in DFL hands despite giving Republicans a head start.
Clark Johnson, a professor at Minnesota State University, won a four-way DFL endorsement battle at a convention Saturday in North Mankato. Johnson said he has no doubts that the three Democratic candidates not endorsed will stick by their pre-convention pledges to suspend their campaigns and rally around the party's endorsed candidate leading up to the primary election a week from today.
"I have every indication they are," said Johnson, who was campaigning at Gustavus Adolphus College Monday.
A radio ad aired Monday morning calling for voters to turn out on Jan. 29 for Karl Johnson, a rural North Mankato farmer who finished second to Clark Johnson at the endorsing convention. But Clark Johnson said he talked to Karl, and Karl assured him he'd done everything he could to pull the previously-scheduled ads.
Cold canvas coming
Clark Johnson, meanwhile, was buying radio ad time and newspaper space Monday -- some specifically aimed at encouraging Democrats to get out to the primary election next Tuesday and ratify the choice made by the 67 delegates at the convention. Because the Democrats scheduled their endorsing convention after the candidate filing period had closed, there's no way for the non-endorsed candidates to remove their names from the primary election ballot -- so the primary must be held to allow voters to determine which Democrat advances to Feb. 12.
Karen Foreman, chair of the Senate District 19 DFL Party, said party officials will be putting a similar effort into their pre-primary get-out-the-vote effort as they will for the main event two weeks later. Foreman said she expects the phone-banking and door-knocking over the next week will pay off for Clark Johnson on Feb. 12, as well as ensuring that he finishes on top in the primary.
As for recruiting volunteers to do mid-winter door-knocking in Minnesota, Foreman has experience. She once ran for a seat on the Mankato City Council in a December special election.
"It's cold. It's not fun," she recalled. "The biggest problem you have is that there isn't much daylight."
Quist on Clark
Republican Allen Quist of rural St. Peter and Independence Party candidate Tim Gieseke of rural Nicollet aren't facing a primary election and can focus on the Feb. 12 special election that will determine Morrow's replacement.
Quist, a retired farmer and former congressional candidate, used Twitter to offer a preview of the message he'll offer voters if Johnson becomes the Democratic nominee next Tuesday.
"DFL endorses liberal MSU prof to represent ag/small business-based Nicollet County," Quist tweeted shortly after the endorsement was decided.
Feb. 5 forum
Voters in House District 19A, which is dominated by Nicollet County but also includes western and northern parts of Mankato and far southwestern Le Sueur County, will get at least one chance to assess all three candidates at a single event.
A forum, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5 at the Treaty Site History Center on Highway 169 North, is being sponsored by the St. Peter Chamber of Commerce, Greater Mankato Growth and the St. Peter League of Women Voters.
People are invited to submit questions in advance by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greater Mankato Growth is also asking candidates to respond to a questionnaire that will be posted at greatermankatoelections.com.