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Primary 2014: McFadden wins GOP Senate primary

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Mike McFadden speaks to his supporters
Mike McFadden speaks to his supporters at O'Gara's in St. Paul Tuesday evening.
Will Matsuda / MPR News

Updated: 11:07 p.m. | Posted: 5:45 p.m.

Sunfish Lake business executive Mike McFadden won an easy victory Tuesday in the Republican U.S. Senate primary.

With nearly all of the state's precincts reporting, McFadden received more than 70 percent of the vote, defeating challengers Rep. Jim Abeler and David Carlson.

McFadden will challenge Sen. Al Franken in November and is heading to St. Cloud and Little Falls to campaign Wednesday.

Jim Abeler
State Rep. Jim Abeler
Jennifer Simonson/MPR News

The first-time candidate hit several of his main themes Tuesday evening, telling supporters at O'Gara's bar in St. Paul that he can apply his business expertise to make the federal government more efficient and less intrusive.

"(Franken) has voted with the president 97 percent of the time," McFadden said. "He's for bigger government, [and] more regulation. He's for Obamacare. He's for higher energy costs and he's for an education status quo that does not work for some of our most vulnerable citizens in this state. It is not acceptable."

McFadden wants the Affordable Care Act repealed. He also says the federal government over-regulates business, holding back the economic recovery.

David Carlson
David Carlson
Courtesy of David Carlson

"I know how to get us back onto the path to growth and prosperity. We can see our greatest days ahead of us and it starts with new leadership in Washington."

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McFadden is co-chief executive officer of Lazard Middle Market, a Minneapolis-based finance and asset management firm.

McFadden received the party's endorsement and exhibited an early ability in the campaign to raise money.

Franken suggested last week that emphasizing his record will be the basis of his re-election campaign.

"You know, I'm just going to put one foot in front of the other, do my job as a Senator," Franken said. "That's what I've been doing. I went to the Senate to be a work horse, not a show horse, and I've done it."

Franken plans to campaign in southern Minnesota on Wednesday.

Many national political observers consider Franken likely to win, but they seem less certain now than they were a few weeks ago.

The last time this Senate seat was on the ballot was in 2008, when Franken defeated Sen. Norm Coleman in a race decided by only 312 votes after a long recount.

Many Minnesotans turned out to vote for President Obama in that election. With no presidential race this fall, Franken and other Minnesota Democrats will have to fight low DFL voter turnout and contend with a president whose popularity has been dropping.

"Republicans have some important structural advantages going into this midterm election," said Kathryn Pearson, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota.

"Republicans have more voters who are more likely to turn out -- older voters, whiter voters, more affluent voters definitely spells some problems for Democrats as does the fact that president Obama does not have very high approval ratings," Pearson said.

Pearson said McFadden's primary victory was made all the stronger because he won it with Republican party backing he did not expect to have.

"There's no doubt that McFadden got a big boost when Republicans endorsed him at the state convention, meaning that Republicans have already coalesced behind him, he did not face a particularly competitive primary and really has been able to focus on the general election."

Minnesotans picked candidates in several congressional districts as well.

In Minnesota's 1st District, GOP challenger Jim Hagedorn won the primary, defeating endorsee Aaron Miller.

In the 6th District, former state House member and unsuccessful 2010 governor candidate Tom Emmer defeated Anoka County Board Chair Rhonda Sivarajah to become the GOP candidate to replace Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann. Bachmann announced last year she would not run again.

Bachmann, who barely survived her last challenge in 2012, endorsed Emmer in the district, which runs from central Minnesota to the north and west Twin Cities suburbs.

Emmer will face DFL endorsee and Sartell Mayor Joe Perske in November.

DFLers made one choice in the primary for congressional seats.

In the 2nd District south and east of the Twin Cities, DFL endorsee Mike Obermueller, Eagan, won the primary, winning the right to challenge six-term Republican Rep. John Kline. Obermueller was the DFL endorsee and defeated challenger Michael Roberts, of Prior Lake.