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Rick and Mary Nolan cheer as the early vote totals were projected on the screen at a DFL primary night gathering Tuesday at the Sunshine Kitchen and Moonshine Lounge in Brainerd, Minn. Rick Nolan won a tight three-way primary for the 8th Congressional District in Minnesota. (Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch)

Nolan wins 8th District primary

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With more than three-quarters of precincts reporting Tuesday night, the Associated Press declared Rick Nolan the winner of the 8th District DFL Congressional primary.

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Nolan captured 39 percent of the vote, compared with 31 percent for Tarryl Clark and 30 percent for Jeff Anderson.

Reflecting on the race, Nolan said: "I think we were able to run a grass-roots campaign with a strong progressive message."

His fundraising machine was outstripped by Clark, who Nolan estimates spent close to $2 million in the race. But Nolan said he was able to put together an effective campaign, noting: "The DFL endorsement has been huge for us. The party really stepped up."

Anderson, too, expressed no regrets.

"I'm very proud of the campaign we've run. I've been dramatically outspent by my opponents, who have spent more than $1 million running against me, as opposed to the $200,000 or so we have. Yet, I've been able to have the other candidates respond to me on the issue of jobs and other things that matter in our district," Anderson said.

In his hometown of Ely, Anderson garnered 482 votes, versus 98 for Nolan and 45 for Anderson.

With 41 percent of precincts reporting in St. Louis County, Anderson, a former Duluth city councilor, held 44 percent of the vote, compared with 31 for Nolan and 24 percent for Clark.

The results exemplified Anderson's success on the Range, but he fared less favorably in other parts of the district.

In the Brainerd/Baxter area, Nolan grabbed nearly 70 percent of the vote.

Clark hadn't commented on the primary results as of press time Tuesday but was preparing to address supporters, gathered at Black Woods Grill & Bar in Duluth.

Ken Hogg, a former city councilor from Duluth, said he liked what he saw in Clark as a state legislator.

"I was really impressed. She knew what she was doing. She worked hard. She made sense. She didn't shoot off her mouth. And she made an impact," he said.

When Hogg learned Clark would run for office in the 8th District, he met with her and was again struck.

"As this has gone on, I've gained more and more respect for her. She does what she says she'll do, and doesn't try to pull the wool over people's eyes."

Other voters leaving the polls Tuesday had their own favorites

Rob Weidner of eastern Duluth said he voted for Rick Nolan because he seems like the most electable and the most likely to beat Cravaack in November.

"He's charismatic. He's good on the issues. He's got the DFL endorsement. I think he's the best chance to win," Weidner said. "Any of the three would be better than what we have now. But I think Nolan is the best of the three."

Alison McIntyre of eastern Duluth said she voted for the hometown candidate -- Jeff Anderson -- because she got a chance to meet him face-to-face.

"He seems like such a personable guy. He seems like a regular guy. He's not caught up in himself," she said. "When you can meet (a candidate) on someone's porch, that makes it a little easier to vote for them."

Like many voters Tuesday, Beth Menz voted for the candidate she knew the best in the congressional race, Anderson.

"He was more from this area that the other two," Menz said.

At Coppertop Church off Central Entrance, Bonnie Lloyd was driven to the polling place by one thought.

"Defeat Chip Cravaack," she said.

She said she had a hard decision to make in the Democratic congressional race but settled on Anderson.

"I like what he said better," Lloyd said. "I had more negative feelings about Nolan and was sort of blah about Tarryl Clark."

But she thinks more people know Nolan and Clark throughout the district and they might fare better in the November election against Cravaack.

"He's the most unknown," she said of Anderson.

Nolan, a 68-year-old Crosby real estate broker, is looking to return to Congress. He was elected to three terms of service in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving the 6th Congressional District. After retiring from office in 1981, he moved toward his original home back north, where he is now running to represent the 8th District.

"There's no doubt about it that Jeff and Tarryl waged a vigorous campaign, but there's no rancor on my part," Nolan said.

He pointed out that all three candidates planned to meet for a unity council at 2 p.m. today at the Duluth Labor Temple.

"I think the fact that we're all willing to meet and come together is an indication that the party is uniting to go forward and beat Chip Cravaack," Nolan said.

Cravaack's campaign e-mailed a statement after midnight.

"I spoke with Congressman Nolan earlier this evening to congratulate him on his primary win," Cravaack said in the statement. "I look forward to a healthy debate on the issues important to Minnesota and the country."

Klobuchar, Bills win primaries

Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Kurt Bills breezed to easy primary victories Tuesday in Minnesota's U.S. Senate race, setting up a general election contest between the Democratic incumbent and a Republican challenger new to statewide politics.

Klobuchar had only token opposition. Bills, a first-term state representative and high school teacher who carried the GOP's endorsement, rolled past two rivals.

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