SIDEWAYS?THUMBS: State officials were concerned about voter turnout for this week's primaries, mostly because we entered unchartered waters with our first-ever August primary. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie called Tuesday's primaries a "big success." More than 580,000 Minnesota voters went to the polls - a turnout of more than 15 percent - and absentee voting rose to a new high of more than 31,000. The primary took place a month earlier than usual under a new law meant to give military and overseas voters more time to cast absentee ballots in the general election. Even though turnout was the highest in eight years, a "big success" might be stretching it a little, especially for a state that prides itself on near-nation-leading voter turnout every election year. The high absentee numbers are a good sign, but 15-percent voter turnout? Minnesota can do better. In Lyon County, about 20 precent of registered voters hit the polls and absentee ballots were more than double than in 2008.
Rough year for local politicians
THUMBS DOWN: It's been a pretty rocky stretch for politicians who call this region home. First, Marty Seifert, seemingly ready to chew everything he bit off when he gave up his post as House Minority Leader for a gubernatorial run, lost to Tom Emmer at the Republican State Convention in his bid for the GOP nomination. Seifert threw his hat into the ring and got off to a strong start, but Emmer, despite concerns raised about his driving record and past run-ins with the law, slowly built momentum, pulled in some star power with a Palin endorsement and threw Seifert's hat right back at him. Then, earlier this week, Matt Entenza, a Worthington native, bid farewell to $5 million of his own money and ended up dropping out of the DFL primary race early Tuesday. Entenza, who focused his ad campaign on scrapping No Child Left Behind, was, well, left behind Tuesday. Both candidates did well in southwestern Minnesota - Seifert at the convention and Entenza on primary night - but were unable to keep pace with their opponents. And it's too bad. Southwest Minnesota is losing lost a number of powerful voices in St. Paul (Seifert, along with retiring Sens. Jim Vickerman and Dennis Frederickson) and it will take a while to get that voice back.
4-Hers show their stuff
THUMBS UP: The 2010 fair season is winding down, with just one local fair yet to take place in Murray County. Of course, a big part of county fairs - some would say the best part - is all the young 4-H participants who take center stage to put themselves and their projects, and big and small animals on display. 4-H is a great way for our youth to learn about hard work, commitment and leadership, and this year's crop of participants all over the region have shown they are a dedicated and talented group of kids.