Hugs and smiles as Minnesota's election campaign opens
ST. PAUL -- The official campaign season started with bipartisan smiles Tuesday, even if no one expects it to end that way.
The first four Minnesotans to file paperwork to officially become candidates were lined up at the secretary of state's counter Tuesday, three of them filling out the forms. But Rick Nolan, Democratic candidate in the 8th Congressional District, had not started.
"It's embarrassing," Nolan said. "I left my reading glasses in the car."
State Rep. Mike Parry, a Republican running in the 1st Congressional District, swiftly reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out his glasses and handed them to Nolan. The Democrat, laughing, slipped them on and slipped his arm around Parry.
The two had not met before waiting in line Tuesday, but they appeared to be old buddies.
"I hope he doesn't get fingerprints on my glasses," Parry joked as a now-sighted Nolan finished his paperwork.
The two from opposite parties and opposite parts of the state hugged and headed back to the campaign trail, where each faces a primary election challenge.
The episode in the State Office Building, across the street from the Capitol, may be a rare moment of the parties working together in what is predicted to be heated campaign leading up to the Nov. 6 general election.
Tuesday was opening day for candidates filing paperwork for more than 1,000 federal, state, county, city, school and judicial offices around Minnesota. Some, like Parry and Nolan, face opponents in an Aug. 14 primary election while others can start their general election campaign right away.
The top Minnesota race is for U.S. Senate, where Republican state Rep. Kurt Bills won his party's endorsement Friday to face incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. The governor and other statewide officials are not up for election, but all 201 legislative seats are. Local office openings vary across the state.
For most offices, candidates must have their paperwork turned in by 5 p.m. June 5.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said a rash of Tuesday filings helped bring attention to the election and the fact that some Minnesotans are willing to sacrifice for public service.
Among the first lawmakers to file for re-election were Reps. Larry Howes, R-Walker, and John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, who were thrown into the same district when the courts redrew district lines earlier this year.
Laverne Pederson of Bemidji and state Sen. Rod Skoe of Clearbook both filed Tuesday, setting up a Democratic-Farmer-Labor state Senate primary battle.
Also, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, and former Sen. Dan Skogen, DFL-Hewitt, filed to face off for state Senate.
Democrats Jason Metsa of Virginia and Dave Meyer of Aurora filed for the seat longtime Rep. Tom Rukavina is vacating.
A suburban Twin Cities lawmaker was first in line at the secretary of state's office for the fifth straight election. Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, stayed overnight on a lawn chair in a hallway near the elections office.
Peppin and other candidates said that being early shows voters how deeply they care about their races.
Joining Peppin, Parry and Nolan as the first candidates to belly up to the secretary of state's counter was Dick Franson. The Democrat is running for the U.S. Senate for the seventh time. In all, he has run for office 26 times, winning only his first race, for Minneapolis City Council.
Nolan faces a Democratic primary in northeast and east-central Minnesota's 8th Congressional District.
"I wanted to be here early to emphasize its importance," Nolan said of the race in the district now represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack.
Parry said the early filing shows he is ready to go to work for voters.
State Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, came in right behind the first four, filing papers to run for re-election.
"The main thing is just to get filed on the first day," Howe said, "I think it's important to let your intentions be known right away, and to let the people of the district know how proud I am to continue serving them."
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.