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Presidential race dominates Emmet County voter turnout

November 7, 2012
by Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville Daily News

With a remarkable voter turnout of nearly 63 percent, Emmet County voters and party officials seemed to put the race between incumbent President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney at the top of their list for voter turnout Tuesday, followed closely by the vote for U.S. representative.

The county bucked the statewide trend that projected Obama as the winner for Iowa, with Romney getting 53.55 percent of the county vote compared to 2,087 for Obama. Rep. Steve King had the approval of nearly 52 percent of county voters compared to nearly 46 percent for Christie Vilsack. King's 5th District was redistricted into a new 4th District spanning nearly half the state, adding Emmet to his list of counties where he had to break new ground. Vilsack, a former teacher, Iowa First Lady and wife of US Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, carried high visibility among Democratic voters. Despite that, it appeared King would continue to serve Iowa in the House.

"It's going to be really close," said Kim Hageman, Emmet County Republican chair. "I think it's going to be later this week until it's really decided," she said about the Presidential race.

As for the race for 4th District House, said Hageman, "The King race I'm hoping for. I hope he pulls it off. I just don't want her (Vilsack) in there."

Tim Schumacher, incumbent Emmet County supervisor who held on to his seat in a four-way contest for three seats, seemed unsettled by the Presidential race as well.

"I'm surprised it's this close. I really didn't think it would be this close given what's gone on in the country and in the world. I think we're going in the wrong direction for being a democratic society," Schumacher said.

Schumacher also indicated surprise at early returns showing Vilsack with an edge over King.

"Maybe they're looking after their own party or their own interests," Schumacher said.

While, Steve Erickson, county Democratic chair, was disappointed to see Romney and King winning in the county, he was glad to see a good voter turnout.

"That's what you want to look for in an election," said Erickson. You want a good turnout."

Erickson said he thought county Democrats did a good job of getting voters out this election. He also noted the Obama campaign had a larger presence in the county that in the previous election. "This time they had an actual coordination center in town here," Erickson said.

Erickson was disappointed in county support for Vilsack.

"I think she gave him (King) a good race. I think she gave him one of the most viable races in his career," Erickson said, echoing a statement King had made himself a number of times throughout his campaign.

Erickson noted a lot of bipartisan county support from both Democrats and Republicans for Iowa Rep. John Wittneben of Estherville who had nearly 60 percent of the vote against challenger Dem. Tedd Gassman. However, unofficial results showed Gassman defeating Wittneben by 57 votes in a very narrow upset.

In the Senate race, Bob Jennings of Algona, a member of the Iowa Lakes Community College Board of Trustees, appeared to be the winner over Dennis Guth of Klemme by about 500 votes. Emmet County voters gave the nod in that race to Guth by just 43 votes, or 2,198 to 2,155.

"I thought Bob would have been a little stronger" in Emmet County, Erickson said.

Overall, Erickson said in years to come, election 2012 will be known for being "a close race".

"If the rest of the country is having a voter turnout like this it means the rest of the country got engaged in it,' Erickson said.

Mikki Erickson, Erickson's wife, county auditor and a Democrat who won her reelection bid handily with just 32 write-in votes for other candidates, wasn't surprised by the high turnout.

"It think this was a pretty high-focused election," she said.

Erickson gave high praise to election officials.

"The precinct officials have done just about everything they can," said Erickson, noting they had put in a day that lasted from 6 a.m. until 10:30 p.m.

One interesting statistic was that while 708 Democrats cast straight ballots with 543 Republicans doing the same, 2,499 county voters gave the nod to Romney with 2,087 for Obama.

"Democrats got out the early vote," she said. "I think the Republicans are catching on to that."



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