Political season hits fever pitch: Seven in race to succeed Rukavina; governor, U.S. Rep. and attorney general races altered by last-minute entries

by Tom Coombe -

Voters may need a scorecard this election season.
A flurry of last-minute filings, in both local and statewide races, has swollen the field in several contests and ensures a hectic campaign leading to the Aug. 14 primary.
Drawing significant interest is the race to succeed retiring St. Louis County Commissioner Tom Rukavina,
Seven candidates from across the spacious Fourth District have entered the contest, including four new entries.
Ely council member Paul Kess, who addressed Babbitt council members earlier this week, announced his candidacy over the weekend as did Dan Manick of Cook, a member of the St. Louis County District 2142 School Board.
Christine Schlotec of Britt and DFL activiist Kristen Larsen of the Duluth area have also joined the fray, adding to a field that already included Vermilion Community College coach and athletic director Paul McDonald of Ely, retiring deputy sheriff Bernie Mettler of Embarrass and Mike Forsman Jr. of Ely.
The top two vote-getters in the August primary will advance to the November general election.
The county board contest is one of just several races that will have hotly-contested primaries this summer.
Divided DFL endorsing conventions, one in the U.S. House Eighth District in April as well as the state gathering over the weekend, prompted a flurry of maneuvering, last-minute entries and a political comeback or two.
U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (D) announced his retirement earlier this year, but he sent shockwaves through state political circles Monday, when he joined State Attorney General Lori Swanson, who joined the DFL gubernatorial primary, and agreed to serve as her running mate.
Swanson, who was denied the party endorsement for her own position, entered the governor’s race instead and is part of a three-way field that also includes party-endorsed State Rep. Erin Murphy, and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz.
The Republicans will choose between former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who is attempting a comeback after an eight-year hiatus and a failed run for president, and endorsed candidate Jeff Johnson.
More political intrigue was added to the race for Attorney General, with Swanson departing from that race, the DFL endorsing Matt Pelikan, and two high-profile hopefuls jumping in at the last minute - former attorney general Mike Hatch and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison.
If that wasn’t enough for voters to sort through, there’s the contest to succeed Nolan in Congress.
DFLers failed to endorse anyone in April and will decide between State Rep. Jason Metsa, former State Rep. Joe Radinovich, retired television news anchor Michelle Lee, North Branch mayor Kirsten Kennedy and Bemidji’s Soren Sorensen.
County commissioner Pete Stauber now has a battle for the Republican nomination with former Duluth school board member Harry Welty filing to run in the primary.