ST. PAUL-A lack of heated races kept many Minnesota voters home from Tuesday's primary election, but those who did show up helped set the plate for the Nov. 8 general election.

Dave Hughes, a political unknown, will take on 26-year veteran U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson in the Nov. 8 election.

Hughes beat another political newcomer, Amanda Lynn Hinson, in Tuesday's primary election in the 7th Congressional District. With about two-thirds of the precincts reporting, Hughes had 60 percent of the vote to Hinson's 40 percent, according to unofficial returns.

Hughes is a retired Air Force officer from Karlstad and the GOP-endorsed candidate. Hinson is an author who lived in Russia five years and is a small business owner in Long Prairie.

Born in San Diego, Calif., Hughes has lived in Minnesota since 2014.

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Hinson is best known for being a missionary in Russia with her family from 2010 and 2015. She wrote a book about her experience.

Neither has held public office.

In an interview after he won, Hughes said that he conducted a campaign "all about substance" and said he will continue that as he goes against Peterson.

Hughes said votes Peterson has taken during his years in Washington helped raise the national debt.

He disputed the belief of many that Peterson is a moderate. He said 7th Congressional District residents, when they mark Peterson's name on a ballot, "are voting for leftist, progressive whacko Nancy Pelosi from California." Pelosi is House Democratic leader.

Hughes said that Peterson may vote against Democratic bills, but he has not been able to defeat any major ones.

"I think there is enough you can go after Collin on," Hughes said, although he pledged to continue to deal in substance, "never promising anything, but telling people what is wrong and what I think we need to do."

The 7th district stretches from Canada south nearly to Iowa, taking in all of western Minnesota as well as some in the central part of the state. It is heavy farm country, which Peterson finds beneficial politically as the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee.

Republicans long have tried to upset Peterson, whose district is strongly Republican. But he has been successful in the district calling himself a moderate Democrat.

Two years ago, national Republicans put money behind state Sen. Torrey Westrom of Elbow Lake, but Peterson won 54 percent to 46 percent. There is little evidence so far that the national GOP will make the 7th district a priority this year.

The two Republican candidates were not fully satisfied with Peterson's performance when they spoke to a Farmfest audience last week.

Hughes said a crop insurance program Peterson supports includes a 62 percent federal subsidy, which "leaves analysts wondering if it is too high."

He suggested that crop insurance should move to more of a free-market concept.

Hinson agreed. "We probably should look at how much government is investing in those premiums."

If there would be more crop insurance competition, she said, more people may purchase the protection.

1st Congressional District

Republican Jim Hagedorn is set for a second straight match-up with Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz in southern Minnesota.

With most of the primary election precincts counted, Hagedorn held 77 percent. Businessman Steve Williams had 23 percent in unofficial returns.

Walz, who has represented the area since 2007, beat Hagedorn two years ago 54 percent to 46 percent.

"Running in consecutive elections is a huge advantage for a challenger," Hagedorn said in proclaiming victory, "especially for purposes of building organization and name identification in a large congressional district of 21 counties."

Hagedorn pledged to walk in every parade and attend every county fair in the 1st Congressional District, which covers southern Minnesota from Wisconsin to South Dakota.

"The vast majority of voters I meet on the campaign trail believe our nation is rapidly moving in the wrong direction," he said. "They are ready for bold solutions and true change."

In a Farmfest forum last week, Hagedorn, a former federal worker, accused Walz of backing federal regulations that drove up prices, which hurt farmers and rural America. He was especially critical of Walz support for new federal health care laws known as Obamacare.

"The farmers are looking for a conservative to go out and the vote for what works," Hagedorn said.

Hagedorn said that "you have no one in the Republican Party" who has power in the agriculture area in the House. If the GOP maintain House control, he said, that would give him more of a say on that topic.

He also said it is not government's role to create jobs.


2nd Congressional District


Jason Lewis used his celebrity of being a radio talk show host as basis for becoming the Republican nominee to replace U.S. Rep. John Kline.

Lewis won the 2nd Congressional District Republican primary. Unofficial results showed him with 49 percent of the vote with most precincts counted.

Businesswoman Darlene Miller held second place with 30 percent. Also in the race were former state Sen. John Howe and little-known newcomer Matt Erickson.

Lewis faces well-financed Democrat Angie Craig, who did not have a primary challenge.

"The differences between radical liberal Angie Craig's policy positions and ours are stark," Lewis said. "She will do her best to 'moderate' her positions, but make no mistake, Angie Craig's Minnesota would be a radical departure from our shared values.

"I have a plan to restore economic prosperity, stop the reckless spending and fix the tax code. Angie Craig supports the Congressional Progressive Caucus' budget that includes a massive, $6 trillion-dollar tax increase."

Lewis admitted that he is not politically correct and said the federal government overregulates Americans.

Experts say Craig might have the edge over Lewis, if only because she has effectively had an eight-month head start.

"I think Angie Craig will start the general election with an advantage, but it won't be the slam dunk maybe some people are expecting," said Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of the nonpartisan Rothenberg and Gonzales Political Report.

Also in the Nov. 8 race will be Independence Party candidate Paula Overby.

The election will decide who will replace Kline, a Republican who opted not to run again.

Lewis, well-known from his years as a talk radio host, won the support of the Republican Party activists at a May convention and also has backing from a wide range of legislators and other prominent Republicans.

Miller gained Kline's endorsement. Howe won endorsements from the National Rifle Association and the Star Tribune newspaper.

"Jason Lewis certainly had the political machinery working for him and it did make the difference," Howe said. "I hope I am wrong about Lewis's vulnerabilities and I am going to work hard for our downline candidates. It will be important to hold the state House and try to pick up some state Senate seats."

The district covers the southern Twin Cities and more rural areas to the south.



Low turnout


Turnout was low in much of Minnesota, although a few spots with hot races did attract more voters.

There were reports of only a dozen or fewer people voting in some precincts. At the East Grand Forks Senior Center, 28 people had voted by about 4 p.m.

"In a way, it's kind of sad," election judge Bob Bratvold said. "It is very important, yet people don't realize it."

Minnesota often leads the country in general election turnout, but just about 10 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the last two primary elections.

There was just one statewide race Tuesday, helping account for low turnout.

Supreme Court Justice Natalie Hudson, appointed less than a year ago, won by a large margin in a contest with two challengers. Michelle MacDonald led Craig Foss for the right to challenge Hudson in November.

With most votes counted, Hudson had 65 percent of the vote.

MacDonald ran and lost in 2012 after losing Republican Party backing when GOP leaders discovered she faced legal troubles. Foss said he was running because he could not find a job as a legally blind person.

There were 28 legislative primary races as all 201 seats are open this year, with some of special interest.

Some long-serving lawmakers lost.

One of two people who have been in the Legislature the longest, Democrat Rep. Phyllis Kahn of Minneapolis, lost to Ilhan Omar.

Since the district is heavily Democratic, Omar is expected to win in November and become Minnesota's first Somali-American legislator.

Kahn has been a representative since 1973, but her district has changed over the years.

Omar won with 41 percent. Unofficial returns showed Mohamud Noor finishing second, 12 votes ahead of Kahn.

Ten-term Rep. Tom Hackbarth of Cedar lost to GOP-endorsed Calvin Bahr, who got 57 percent of the vote.

Democratic Rep. Joe Mullery of Minneapolis lost to Fue Lee, who won 55 percent of the vote.

Sen. Sean Nienow of Cambridge lost Tuesday night after filing for bankruptcy and losing the GOP endorsement to Mark Koran of North Branch, who got 63 percent support.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, defeated Alan Duff of Isanti on the Republican ballot. Each claimed to be more conservative than the other in a race that attracted outside groups' money for each candidate.

Sen. Vicki Jensen of Owatonna beat fellow Democrat Rich Bailey with nearly 90 percent of the vote in a district some observers say could be a toss-up this fall.

Nine-term Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, handily beat challenger Tom Heinks.

Both black members of the Senate, Democrats Jeff Hayden and Bobby Joe Champion, faced challengers but easily won. Rep. Rita Moran, D-St. Paul, the only black House member, won over a Black Lives Matter leader.


U.S. House primary highlights

1st Congressional District: Republicans, Jim Hagedorn beat Steve Williams. Winner faces Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz.

2nd Congressional District: Republicans, Jason Lewis beat Darlene Miller, John Howe and Matthew Erickson. Winner faces Democrat Angie Craig for open seat.

3rd Congressional District: No primary race. Republican U.S. Rep. Eric Paulsen faces Democrat Terri Bonoff.

4th Congressional District: Democrats, U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum beat Steve Carlson. Republicans, Greg Ryan beat Nokolay Bey and Gene Rechtzigel.

5th Congressional District: Democrats, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison won over Gregg Iverson and Lee Bauer.

6th Congressional District: Republicans, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer defeated Patrick Munro and A.J. Kern. Democrats, David Snyder beat Bob Helland and Judy Evelyn Adams.

7th Congressional District: Republicans, David Hughes defeated Amanda Lynn Hinson. Winner faces Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson.

8th Congressional District: No primary contest. Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Noland to face Republican Stewart Mills.


Reporters Anne Jacobson, John Hageman and the St. Paul Pioneer Press contributed to this story. The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.