MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Businessman Mike McFadden lived up to the favorite's billing in Minnesota's GOP Senate primary Tuesday, sweeping to an easy victory to set up a high-dollar fall matchup with Sen. Al Franken.
McFadden easily turned back state Rep. Jim Abeler. The day's other top prize was the Republican nomination to take on Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, with four major rivals going into the day without a clear favorite.
Elsewhere in Minnesota, two state House incumbents beat back upstart challengers, including a Somali-born activist who had hoped to become Minnesota's first Somali-American legislator.
Retiring Rep. Michele Bachmann's House seat was a good bet to go to the winner of a two-way Republican primary. And State Auditor Rebecca Otto was in a tough fight against former lawmaker Matt Entenza.
Turnout was projected as low as 10 percent of eligible voters. The lack of buzz over the election was evident at Edina Community Lutheran Church, where fewer than 120 people had voted by late afternoon. Several Republican voters said they had no clear preference among the governor hopefuls, who differed only slightly on policy and didn't air a single attack ad against each other.
"That's a problem. They're all very similar," said Pat Montez, who declined to say who she voted for.
Three politicians and a businessman ran hard for the right to represent the GOP against Dayton.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson won the party's endorsement this spring, but it didn't clear the field — unusual for the party. Business executive Scott Honour, former House Speaker Kurt Zellers and former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert all went to a primary.
With similar messages from the candidates — cut government spending, lower taxes and reduce regulations — the race was more about style and background. Honour touted his status as an outsider. Zellers argued he had a history of standing up to Dayton. Seifert played up his rural pedigree.
Dayton was the heavy favorite on his side against challengers Leslie Davis and Bill Dahn.
McFadden, an investment banker, campaigned as though he locked down the nomination long ago, focusing exclusively on Franken and largely ignoring competition from within the GOP.
Abeler worked for the upset, but had only a fraction of the millions McFadden raised for his campaign. Three other Republicans appeared on the ballot. McFadden, a first-time candidate, dispatched his most serious Republican rivals by winning endorsement at the party's state convention.
Franken was a virtual lock against Sandra Henningsgard, who didn't actively campaign.
The Independence Party's endorsed candidate Kevin Terrell had four rivals.
The impending departure of Bachmann in Minnesota's solidly conservative 6th District made for a high-stakes Republican primary.
Former state Rep. Tom Emmer had the party endorsement and a big cash advantage over Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah. For Emmer, the race offered a chance to reboot a political career sidetracked by his close loss to Mark Dayton in the 2010 governor's race.
In southern Minnesota, Aaron Miller and Jim Hagedorn each sought the Republican nod to challenge four-term Democratic Rep. Tim Walz this fall. The primary was spiced by Hagedorn's entry on the grounds that Miller, the endorsed candidate, wasn't campaigning hard enough. Miller rejected the charge.
No Minnesota House members faced primary challenges.
State Auditor Rebecca Otto's job was on the line in a Democratic primary against former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza.
The two-term incumbent was heavily outspent by Entenza, who poured significant personal money into his campaign. Otto had the Democratic apparatus on her side, but Entenza had some notable supporters promoting him.
State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, Minnesota's longest-serving female elected official, confronted a significant challenge from Mohamud Noor, who was trying to become the first Somali-American to win a Minnesota statehouse seat. But Kahn eventually prevailed with some 54 percent of the vote.
Kahn was first elected in 1972, six years before Noor was born. A primary win is akin to a ticket to the Legislature in heavily Democratic Minneapolis.
In suburban Eden Prairie, Deputy House Minority Leader Jenifer Loon faced down a challenge from Sheila Kihne prompted by Loon's vote in support of gay marriage. Loon won comfortably.