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Tea Party leader ousts longtime GOP Rep. Steve Smith
Rep. Steve Smith, currently the House’s longest-serving GOP member, was defeated in Tuesday's primary.

Three closely watched legislative primary races — billed as a test of strength for the Republican Party’s most conservative members — produced mixed results Tuesday:

• The defeat of Rep. Steve Smith, currently the House’s longest-serving GOP member.

• A primary victory for a Senate leader who withstood a conservative challenge.

• A narrow victory for a conservative candidate over Rep. Connie Doepke, who was running for an open Senate seat.

Here’s a look at those three western suburb races:

House District 33B: Cindy Pugh, a Tea Party leader who was endorsed over the incumbent, easily ousted Smith with 70 percent of the vote.

Pugh, co-founder of the Southwest Metro Tea Party, also had received endorsements from House Speaker Kurt Zellers and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, among other members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation.

She criticized Smith, a 22-year House member who had received some union support, as out of touch with the district. Smith, who was unavailable for comment, has called Pugh an extremist for her hard-line views.

Cindy Pugh
cindyformn.comCindy Pugh, center, is the co-founder of the Southwest Metro Tea Party.

“The Tea Party values that I have embraced … these are not extremist positions as Rep. Smith portrayed,” Pugh said from her primary night party on Tuesday. “They are mainstream. People are very, very worried about our debt. They’re concerned about the size of spending.”

Senate District 47: Sen. Julianne Ortman, chairwoman of the Senate Taxes Committee, easily defeated Bruce Schwichtenberg, who painted himself as the more conservative option. Ortman and Schwichtenberg deadlocked at the party endorsing convention in May.

She earned 58 percent of the vote to Schwichtenberg’s 42 percent.

“We had great results tonight,” Ortman said in an interview afterward. “I think our team worked very hard and I think we got great affirmation of my work at the Capitol.”

The Republican from Chanhassen also defended her conservative credentials.

Julianne Ortman
MinnPost photo by James NordSen. Julianne Ortman earned 58 percent of the vote to rival Bruce Schwichtenberg’s 42 percent.

“I would say that I’ve always been conservative,” Ortman said. “I’m just not an angry conservative, and there are a lot of people who mix those things up … you can be conservative, principled and also work with others … and that’s the affirmation that I think we got today from voters.”

Senate District 33: In the race to replace retiring Sen. Gen Olson, Mound City Council Member Dave Osmek — who cast himself as further to the right than his opponent — eked out a victory by less than 1 percentage point over Rep. Connie Doepke.

The campaign involved questions of misleading literature over endorsements claimed by Doepke’s camp and infighting between the two candidates.

Democrats faced several closely watched primaries of their own.

House District 6B: Three DFLers fought to secure outgoing Rep. Tom Rukavina’s Iron Range seat. Jason Metsa won 55 percent of the vote, easily beating Lorie Janatopoulos (41 percent) and Dave Meyer (5 percent).

House District 11B: Former Rep. Tim Faust defeated Nathan Johnson with 55 percent of the vote. Faust now campaigns to replace outgoing Rep. Roger Crawford, who ousted him in 2010.

House District 59B: Three DFLers campaigned to succeed outgoing Rep. Bobby Jo Champion in the DFL stronghold. Raymond Dehn narrowly won with 37 percent, compared with Terra Cole’s 36 percent and Ian Alexander’s 27 percent.

Senate District 17: Sen. Lyle Koenen prevailed with 56 percent against challenger Larry Rice to face GOP Sen. Joe Gimse. Redistricting put both incumbents in the same district.

Senate District 67: Businessman Foung Hawj won the three-way DFL primary to replace Sen. John Harrington, a former St. Paul police chief. Harrington had endorsed Robert Humphrey, who trailed with 39 percent of the vote. Hawj got 44 percent, and former City Council Member Tom Dimond had 17 percent.

All 201 legislative seats are up for election. There were 44 competitive primaries across the state Tuesday night – 20 for Republicans and 24 for Democrats.

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/15/2012 - 11:48 am.

    Break up

    And the disintegration of the Republican party continues. At least there’s some evidence that some Republicans are finally realizing that compromise and bipartisanship will be the only way to survive in the end. I don’t trust Ortman however, I’ve been there and seen what she’s done and it ain’t working together very much.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/15/2012 - 12:02 pm.

    Rep. Smith is paying the price

    …of voting to publicly finance a private sports venue.

    Talking the conservative talk isn’t sufficient any more; it’s time to walk the walk. The country is in hock to our children’s ears; it is time we start sending people to our government offices that know how to say “no”. Cindy Pugh is such a leader, and she will be a force for the leftists to reckon with.

    Sadly, Steve is learning that truth the hard way.

    • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/15/2012 - 09:54 pm.

      The last I heard, Mr. Swift,

      both houses of the legislature were controlled by Republicans. Obviously some of them had to go along with the stadium proposal. And how many – other than Smith – were discharged because of this? I won’t bore you with the names of the GOP heavy hitters who went along with the stadium.

      And of course that famously left of center legislative leader, Kurt Zellers, rolled over and played dead on the matter. He had it in his hands to stop the stadium. You remember Mr. Zellers, the one who allowed Bradlee Dean to serve as chaplain for a day in the legislature and then was forced to expunge his disrespectful prayer from the legislative record?

      Simply put, Ms. Pugh’s Tea Party roots and close association with the likes of Pastor Tracksuit – that would be Bradlee Dean – are enough to insure that she will not be a leader in the next legislature.

      To refresh your memory:

      Photos of SW Metro Tea Party Activists Tabling at Screening of Bradlee Dean’s “My War”


  3. Submitted by Arito Moerair on 08/15/2012 - 01:23 pm.

    Do you suppose the four elderly people in that photo have any idea what Cindy Pugh is talking about?

    The only people concerned about the “debt” (really a political buzzword at this point) is the party that’s out of power. They use that buzzword to attack the party making the decisions. Ask yourself if you wake up at night worrying about the debt. If she has any pragmatic ideas on how to govern — besides the obvious tax cuts for billionaires — I’ll eat my hat.

    I have no idea what will happen in that district in November. But it would serve the baggers right to have Cindy Pugh defeated by a giant margin — show them what happens when fringe wingers are put on the ballot in a big election year.

  4. Submitted by Andrew Kearney on 08/15/2012 - 02:13 pm.

    Tim Faust Correction

    Tim Faust won with 63% of the vote not 55%. The confusion resulted from the computers in Kanabec County and the SOS office having trouble connecting with each other. What is remarkable is Faust won without the backing of some of the local party leaders including the district’s only two professional politician/lobbyists, and an elected official or two. A few activists put up his opponent because they did not like how “he votes DFL but talks to the middle.” But Faust stuck with his progressive but conciliatory message. His was an example on the DFL side of the radical left losing to the progressive middle with people strongly supporting the latter.

  5. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 08/15/2012 - 03:47 pm.

    District 33 will pay the price..

    …it’s truly a sad day for my district. I didn’t always agree with Smith, but at least I felt there was some intelligence and thoughtfulness there. I’ve met Pugh and, unfortuantely, I can’t say she possesses either of those qualities. Just another puppet with no substance mouthing the Tea Party line.

    • Submitted by Alan Stapel on 08/18/2012 - 03:39 pm.

      Steve Smith

      Sad day indeed for 33B with Smith out and Pugh in. Tea Party people are long on rhetoric and short on solutions. I like everyone else does not like taxes, but anyone that can sign a pledge too “never” raise taxes is living in a bubble and is living in some different reality than the rest of us.

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