Unlike the Presidential election, which may go down as one of the closest (and most legally contested) national races in history, virtually every single local election featured wide margins between those who were elected and those who fell short.
Like - and mostly because of, the Presidential race (along with the COVID-caused emphasis on early and absentee voting, the elections of 2020 will also go down in history as having the largest turnout, with the local precincts being no exception. According to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s numbers, an incredible 93.86% of people who were registered to vote as of 7 a.m. on Election Day in Chisago County filled out a ballot at some time during the election process. Isanti County wasn’t far behind, with 92.61% of registered voters filling out a ballot. Statewide, the estimated turnout was 78.35%.
With the specter of possible lawsuits aimed at invalidating any ballots that were postmarked by Nov. 3, but didn’t reach the county’s auditor’s office, the main takeaway from the local elections is any such ballots more than likely won’t have an impact on who gets elected, with all but one incumbent easily winning re-election. Here is a breakdown of the contested races in the area.
North branch Mayor
What started off as a potentially heated three-way race quickly morphed into a landslide victory for Mayor Jim Swenson, earning him a second two-year term. Swenson took 70.94% of the votes, outdistancing former council member Brian Voss - who stopped actively campaigning but stopped short of officially dropping out of the race following his resignation from his council seat at the end of September. The third candidate, Gerard Kunz, had withdrawn in early September, but his name was still on the ballot.
Cambridge City council
The lone incumbent who failed to reclaim his seat was Joe Morin in the four-way race for two seats on the Cambridge City Council. Not only did Mark Ziebarth earn enough votes to replace Morin, who was appointed to the seat a year ago following the death of Marlys Palmer, but Ziebarth’s 2,343 votes was tops among the four candidates, picking up 34.17% of the total votes.
Incumbent Lisa Iverson came in second with 2,010 votes, which equates to 29.32%.
Cambridge-Isanti School Board
The other election that garnered the most local attention was for Cambridge-Isanti School Board, where three incumbents were joined by former Isanti Mayor George Wimmer in trying to earn a seat on the board. While Wimmer’s campaign emphasized the fact he was the only non-incumbent in the race, once the ballots were counted, it turned out voters appeared to be satisfied with the current board members. For the record, Heidi Sprandel wound up earning the most votes, followed closely by former teacher Gary Hawkins and then Carri Levitski. Wimmer finished with just under 1,500 fewer votes than Levitski.
School district referendum fails
The wide vote margins carried over to the Cambridge-Isanti School District’s operating levy referendum, which was asking district residents to approve a tax increase that would eventually produce an additional $1,200 per student.
From the moment the first precincts reported in to the point where 100% of the precincts were tallied, the “no” votes outnumbered the “yes” votes by approximately a two-to-one ratio, with the final count being 10,596 (62.33%) no votes versus 6,403 (37.67%) yes votes.
For the local State Legislature elections, the common theme was results similar to the C-I Schools’ referendum vote. Across the board, each incumbent won with none of them garnering fewer than 60% of the votes, meaning Kurt Daudt (District 31A), Brian Johnson (District 32A), Ann Neu (District 32B), Michelle Benson (Senate District 31), and Mark Koran (Senate District 32) easily won re-election.
The same held true for the one contested Chisago County Commissioner race that was contested, with Rick Greene earning just over 61% of the votes.
Isanti County Soil and Water Supervisor
The only contested race that was somewhat close was for the Isanti County Soil and Water District 1 Supervisor. In that race, Valerie Marty Anderson (9,652, 53.81%) beat out Barry Springborn (8,114, 45.23%) for that seat.
Editor’s note: because of the large margins of victory, while the percentages might slightly change, there is a very small likelihood the winners will change after the counting of absentee ballots received by Tuesday, Nov. 10. Unless the unlikely does in fact happen, we will only be posting the final, official results on our website at countystar.com.