ST. PAUL -- Minnesota voters on Tuesday narrowed 16 U.S. Senate candidates down to the three who were favored all along.
Comedian Al Franken beat attorney Priscilla Lord Faris and five others in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party primary, and Sen. Norm Coleman trounced token challenger Jack Shepard on the Republican side. Dean Barkley whipped six other Independence Party candidates.
"The battle begins," said Coleman, who took more than 90 percent of the GOP vote, adding that voters will have a clear choice between himself and Franken. "I look forward to a vigorous campaign."
Franken had a 66 percent to 29 percent lead over Faris with 61 percent of precincts reporting, according to unofficial election results. Franken said he has been targeting Coleman all along.
"Minnesotans know that we're going in the wrong direction and they know that we need a change," Franken said, adding he would be "a senator that's going to be fighting for them every day."
Barkley beat former IP Chairman Jack Uldrich, party-endorsed Stephen Williams and four others. He had 60 percent of the vote with 61 percent of precincts reporting, five times more than his closest challenger.
Barkley said he will start raising money today as he tries to defeat Coleman and Franken, each of whom is raising millions of dollars.
He expects the other six Independence candidates to rally around his campaign. "We are all friends."
"Obviously, the first thing I'm going to do tomorrow is to raise money," he said moments after he won his race.
Minnesota voters settled other statewide, congressional and local primary races Tuesday.
Three endorsed Republican candidates for Congress each faced a primary. Brian Davis was declared the winner in southern Minnesota's 1st Congressional District GOP contest, where he held a 62 percent to 38 percent advantage over Dick Day with more than half of precincts reporting.
In western Minnesota's 7th District, Glen Menze had the party backing in his bid against Alan Roebke, but struggled to gain an early lead. Menze led Roebke 53 percent to 47 percent with 74 percent of the western Minnesota precincts reporting.
Bachmann is seeking a second term representing the 6th District, which stretches from the eastern Twin Cities area northwest to St. Cloud.
Voters in the DFL Senate primary also could choose from Bob Larson, Alve Erickson and perennial candidates Dick Franson and Ole Savior. Also in the DFL primary was Rob Fitzgerald of Fergus Falls, who ran for Senate in 2006 under the Independence Party banner.
The IP Senate primary ballot also included Darryl Stanton, Kurt Anderson, Bill Dahn and Doug Williams.
In the Supreme Court contests, Gildea was competing for her seat with Jill Clark, Richard Gallo Jr. and Deborah Hedlund. Fellow justice Anderson was running against Alan Nelson and Tim Tingelstad, a Detroit Lakes native and Bemidji resident.