In early discussions of the dynamics of the special election in House District 19A, party leaders and operatives on both sides fairly well dismissed the importance of the student vote, either because of traditional drop-off by student voters in non-Presidential elections--or because none of the candidates were connected to the campus as Terry Morrow and Ruth Johnson had been.
Fortunately, winning DFLer Clark Johnson, and GAC Democrats organizing powerhouse Megan Nelson didn't take the conventional wisdom seriously. The final major campaign event was a GOTV rally on the GAC campus with Congressman Tim Walz and Governor Mark Dayton.
How did that work out? The St. Peter Herald reports in Clark Johnson wins House District 19A special election:
Most recently [Johnson] held a “get out the vote” rally on the Gustavus Adolphus campus. Gov. Mark Dayton and Congressman Tim Walz, D-Mankato, turned out Monday to stump for Clark Johnson, rallying Gustavus students in hopes that the campus vote would play a significant role Tuesday’s election. . . .
In the past, Gustavus Adolphus students have lent a significant boost to Democratic numbers in St. Peter’s Ward 2 precincts. But the highest numbers of votes have coincided with either presidential elections or elections in which a member of the Gustavus Adolphus staff have been involved.
But Johnson was busy campaigning at Gustavus on Monday, trying to reach out to students returning to classes. He praised students for their participation in November’s general election and tried to appeal to those who supported the “vote no” campaign by advocating for the Legislature to legalize gay marriage. He told students the Gustie vote would be integral in Tuesday night’s election.
In fact, votes from St. Peter’s Gustie-dominated Ward 2 totaled 450 accounting for nearly 17 percent of the winning vote. More than 960 St. Peter residents voted for Johnson, contributing significantly to his win.
Johnson won with 2,680 votes. Allen Quist received 1,801 votes, while Tim Gieseke collected 511.
The GAC factor parallels the importance of the student voter in the special election for Senate District 25 seat in 2008, won by Kevin Dahle. While student vote wasn't the only factor in both races, the two examples suggest that smart targeting and GOTV in districts where student voters live shouldn't be over looked in special elections.
Photo: Ruth and Clark Johnson campaign.
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