Our View: Strap in for charged campaign season
More than 90,000 registered Minnesota voters participated in Tuesday's primary election, a little better than 28 percent.
While that may not sound like much, it's actually quite impressive as the highest turnout in a Minnesota primary in more than three and a half decades and as the second-highest turnout since 1950. Fueled by high-interest races and the convenience of early absentee voting, Tuesday's turnout marked a decided bounceback from the fewer than 8 percent of eligible voters who cast ballots in 2004 or the 10 percent who turned out just four years ago in 2014. It's reflective of the participation levels of the 1950s and 1960s.
Interest in who our elected leaders ought to be clearly is high — as it should be. Voters are engaged, reflecting the wisdom in the old adage that those who show up make the decisions, a far preferable option to leaving it to others to decide.
While Tuesday's winners can be congratulated for moving on to Election Day on Nov. 6 and while all the candidates can be thanked for their participation and their valuable contributions to a robust public process, the voters on Tuesday deserve the loudest applause.
And the most earnest encouragement to remain involved, prompting others to do likewise, as late summer turns to early fall and as election season really ramps up. The importance of getting to know the now-narrowed fields of candidates and of boning up on issues of most importance can start now.
The News Tribune Opinion page will be among those helping.
In addition to publishing endorsement editorials, candidate-written columns, and other elections-related content, the newspaper's editorial board, as it has during past high-profile election seasons, will partner with the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce to sponsor candidate forums. A trio of 10 a.m. sessions in the theater at the Depot already are scheduled. Gubernatorial candidates (Republican Jeff Johnson and DFLer Tim Walz) will take the stage to answer questions on Sept. 12. U.S. Senate candidates (Democrat Tina Smith vs. Republican Karin Housley and Democrat U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar against Republican challenger Jim Newberger) take their turn on Sept. 19. And on Sept. 26, candidates for Minnesota's 8th Congressional District (Republican Pete Stauber, Democrat Joe Radinovich, and the Independence Party's Ray Skip Sandman) have been invited.
The newspaper's editorial board also will host candidate forums in Duluth and on the Iron Range with legislative and St. Louis County Board candidates. Those will be announced soon.
Many details are still being worked out, including how to view the various forums online, a great way to hear directly from the candidates.
Also like during past elections, representatives of the grassroots, started-in-Duluth, now-worldwide Speak Your Peace: The Civility Project are expected to be on hand at this fall's News Tribune-sponsored candidate events. They'll help to encourage a healthy exchange of viewpoints and respectful public participation. The goal is never to stifle debate or end disagreements. "It is a campaign to improve public discourse by simply reminding ourselves of the very basic principles of respect," as the Speak Your Peace website points out.
Our representative government's ability to represent more of us depends on our participation. Tuesday's primary marked a turn in the right direction. The next 11 weeks and four days will be the voters' chance to bone up on the final candidates and the important issues to drive voter turnout on Nov. 6 even higher.