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Doug's Diggings: Reflections on last week's primary election

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The primary election is history, but it was probably one of the most exciting primaries in a number of years.

The judge race dominated local interest and, of the five candidates, Mark Gherty and Howard Cameron survived to advance to the April 1 election.

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The judge race brought many people to the polls, but it was the presidential primary that attracted the large numbers. In fact, there were 15,395 voters in St. Croix County in the presidential primary last week (13,714 voted in the judge race).

What this does, of course, is makes it hard to predict the outcome of the April 1 judge election. In reality, less people will vote in the April election than voted in the Feb. 19 primary.

Usually February primaries attract very few voters, but a presidential race always pushes the numbers up - this year it pushed the number to record levels. The last presidential primary in 2004 attracted less than half of the 2008 total -- 7,234 voters. But, if you take away a presidential race, the February numbers are usually abysmal.

Likewise, April elections do not attract huge voter turnouts. The April election is devoted to strictly local races (municipalities, county, etc.). It doesn't have the glitz and glamour of fall elections where state and national offices are on the ballot.

The judge race should help bring voters to the polls, but the last time there was a head-to-head judge race was in 2001. That race attracted 8,784 voters, just more than half who voted in last week's primary.

I suspect a spirited race between Mark Gherty and Howard Cameron will make for a good voter turnout, but it is highly unlikely that the numbers will approach the 15,395 voters who cast ballots Feb. 19.

What it all means is that some people who voted for a particular judge candidate will not even vote in the April election. Also, people who voted for one of the eliminated candidates (Carol Law, Chuck Harris and Ken Sortedahl) will have to shift their vote to one of the remaining two.

Just considering that possibility is mind boggling. Let's pretend that the same number of people will return to the polls in April to vote for a judge candidate. Mark Gherty was the top vote-getter in the primary with 4,593 votes and Howard Cameron was second with 3,074. If you add up the votes of the defeated candidates, it totals 6,002 votes (plus 45 more for a smattering of write-ins). One of the challenges for the remaining candidates will be to find a way to win the support of those who voted for one of your opponents!

It should make for an interesting campaign in the month before the April election.

Another exciting part of the primary was the appearance of presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in Hudson.

Of course, Huckabee is no longer considered a serious contender, but he is still in the race and still attracts media and an entourage of followers wherever he goes.

Huckabee's Hudson appearance didn't push him to victory, of course. John McCain defeated Huckabee 2,459-1,597 in the Republican primary in St. Croix County. In Hudson, the results were about the same with McCain winning 428-253; in North Hudson McCain won 179-78 and McCain was also the winner in Hudson area towns: Troy, 160-98; St. Joseph, 157-70; and Hudson, 302-192.Huckabee, however, was the winner in a few small county precincts. He won the towns of Cady, 42-17; Forest, 21-11; Glenwood, 19-15; Pleasant Valley, 17-7; Springfield, 33-18 and the city of Glenwood 38-24.

On the Democrat side, the split was a little closer - and there were a lot more voters. With the tight race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, there was a huge number of Democrat voters - some speculate that a fair number of Republicans may have crossed over to try and eliminate the candidate they disliked most.

Obama carried all Hudson precints 1,102 to Hillary's 804. Obama also won North Hudson 351-246 and the Hudson area towns: Troy, 348-297; St. Joseph, 275-249 and Hudson, 542-447.

Of the county's 38 precincts, Obama won 24, Clinton 13 and there was one tie. Most of Clinton's wins came in smaller districts, with the biggest being the village of Baldwin where she defeated Obama 231-207.

Even the race in Hudson's District 3 council race attracted 604 voters. Lori Bernard (335 votes) and Dave Selissen (225 votes) defeated Kurt TeWinkel (44 votes).

All in all, it was a pretty exciting February primary. As said before, the February primary generally has little excitement and poll workers usually spend most of their day waiting for the polls to close at 8 p.m. This year, however, all the ingredients were there for a big turnout - meaningful presidential primary and a local judge race with five good candidates!

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