Primary voters to narrow field in Senate and Congressional races

Sen. Norm Coleman
Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman faces a challenger in the Tuesday primary from Jack Shepard, who has a criminal record and lives in Italy.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

There are seven Independence Party candidates running for U.S. Senate. Only one will survive past the primary election.

Dean Barkley has actually held the job before. In 2002, Governor Jesse Ventura appointed Barkley to fill the final weeks of Senator Paul Wellstone's term after Wellstone was killed in a plane crash.

Al Franken
DFL U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken faces several candidates in Tuesday's party primary.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

Barkley says he's trying to get elected to shake up what he sees as an ineffective Congress.

"Maybe if they start losing elections, they'll get the message that they have to change the way they do business," said Barkley. "And this is a huge opportunity for Minnesota to send that message, and I hope they take the opportunity to do it. This would shock Washington, D.C., by sending anyone of our Independence Party candidates to Washington."

Former Ventura adviser Jack Uldrich says Barkley appears to be the Independence Party's frontrunner, but not its best-qualified candidate. Uldrich says he has better experience dealing with energy and economic issues.

"I just have more energy. I'm more optimistic about the future. And I have a much better idea of what exactly it is I want to accomplish when I get to the United States Senate," said Uldrich. "And I'm confident that energy and optimism is going to resonate with Independence Party voters tomorrow."

The rest of the Independence Party lineup includes endorsed candidate Stephen Williams, Kurt Michael Anderson, Bill Dahn, Darryl Stanton and Doug Williams.

Priscilla Lord Faris
Priscilla Lord Faris is challenging Al Franken for the DFL nomination in this year's U.S. Senate campaign.
MPR photo/Tom Weber

There are also seven DFL candidates for U.S. Senate on the primary ballot. The party's endorsed candidate is Al Franken.

He's facing a challenge from Priscilla Lord Faris, an attorney who's run TV ads trying to convince DFL voters that she's be a better candidate to face Coleman in the general election. Faris says launchin her campaign was the right thing to do.

"I just wish that Franken would have had the respect to have debated me. You know we always debate in the primaries, but he refused to even acknowledge my presence, and I'm a little insulted by that," said Lord Faris.

A day before the primary, Franken was still ignoring Faris and looking ahead to Coleman. Franken briefly commented on the primary during a news conference at the University of Minnesota.

"I'm voting. And I've decided who I'm voting for. And then we're looking forward to this contest with Norm Coleman, and I think the choice is very clear. The choice is very clear between Norm Coleman and me," said Franken.

Uldrich & Barkley
Jack Uldrich and Dean Barkley are two of seven candidates vying for the Independence Party nomination in the race for U.S. Senate.
MPR photos/Tom Weber

The other DFL candidates are Alve Erickson, Rob Fitzgerald, Dick Franson, Bob Larson and Ole Savior.

On the Republican side, incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman shares the primary ballot with challenger Jack Shepard. During a news conference at his St. Paul Senate office, Coleman told reporters he can't believe Shepard, who has a criminal record and lives in Italy, is even allowed on the ballot.

"I think everybody should run for office, except for folks who are under indictment and have fled the country because of felony charges," said Coleman. "I do think we can somehow narrow the universe, but I want to make sure folks get out there and vote. It's very, very important."

Voters in three of the state's eight congressional districts are also narrowing the list of candidates.

In southern Minnesota's 1st District, state Sen. Dick Day is challenging the GOP-endorsed candidate Brian Davis. The winner will take on first-term Democrat Tim Walz.

Two other freshmen members of Congress, 5th District Democrat Keith Ellison and 6th District Republican Michele Bachmann, have challengers from within their party.

In a year when all 134 seats in the Minnesota House of Representative are up for grabs, 27 districts will have primaries. Those contests include two incumbent Republicans who helped Democrats override Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of a transportation finance bill.

Another contest getting attention is the GOP primary for a special election in Senate District 16. State Rep. Mark Olson is running with the party endorsement, but Republican Senate leaders are backing his opponent.

House Republicans ousted Olson from their caucus caucus last year after he was convicted on a domestic assault charge.