East Grand Forks voters choose Biden, Trump

Republicans, Democrats turn out to primary elections in Minnesota

Election judges, from left, Sandy Brooks, Jeffrey McMaines and Katie Boespflug, share a laugh with East Grand Forks resident William Pluth as Pluth registers to vote at the East Grand Forks Senior Citizens Center on Tuesday, March 3. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

Francisco Raatz knows his candidate is going to carry Minnesota.

The 38-year-old veteran and Northrop Grumman worker voted for Donald Trump, the only candidate on Republican ballots in Tuesday’s statewide primary, as a show of support, he said.

“Personally, in my financial life, I kind of like how things are going. I’ve got a wife and three kids, mortgage and stuff like that, so I’ve got things to worry about. Things to pay for,” Raatz told the Herald in the hallway of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, where northerly East Grand Forks residents voted for their political parties’ nominees for president. Tax cuts Trump signed into law in 2017 have meant higher bonuses at Northrup, Raatz said.

Ruth and Pat Callahan, who moved back to Minnesota from Washington State nearly three years ago, felt similarly.

“He’s done very well, and he cares about us people and he cares about his country,” Ruth said. “I would not vote for the other ones.”


Nearby, a handful of election judges, who were in the thick of shifts that began at 6 a.m., were swapping stories and tips for staying alert, including laughter and eating crunchy foods like carrots.

Trump easily carried Minnesota generally and East Grand Forks specifically. The Republican Party of Minnesota did not authorize any other names on its primary ballots, and the Minnesota Supreme Court last month rejected a push to add more.

In the more competitive Democratic field, Delaware Senator and former Vice President Joe Biden received 235 of the 486 East Grand Forks votes cast -- 48.35% -- and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders won 135, or 27.77%.

Statewide and in Polk County, Democrats picked Biden over Sanders and the remainder of the field.

At East Grand Forks City Hall, where south central East Grand Forks residents headed to vote, Ellen and Adrian Moritz said they had voted for Biden, who recently won a similar vote in South Carolina.

“Thank God, he’s in there,” Ellen Moritz said of Biden. “I think he’s the best person for it. … He’s kind, compatible and smart, and everything that you want in a president.”

“I just hope that they get rid of Trump,” Adrian Moritz said.

Amina Ahmed said she voted for Sanders, who won Minnesota’s caucuses in 2016 but ultimately lost the Democratic nomination to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Sanders’ policy proposals -- including tuition-free college and student loan forgiveness -- won Ahmed over, she said. Tuesday was Ahmed’s first vote since she became a U.S. citizen in September 2019, she said.


A total of 4,528 people were registered to vote in East Grand Forks when the polls opened Tuesday morning. This year was the first since 1992 when Minnesota Democrats and Republicans have picked their parties’ presidential nominees with a general election-style vote. Before Tuesday, the two parties caucused in church gyms and school libraries across the state to determine their respective nominees and adopt planks into their political platforms.

Both major parties nonetheless held caucuses last week, but left presidential nominations to the vote on “Super” Tuesday, which earned that nickname because 13 other states hold similar contests on the same day. It can make it a make-or-break moment for presidential candidates’ campaigns.

Minnesota has been a Democratic stronghold in presidential elections for years -- it was, famously, one of only a handful of states Jimmy Carter carried en route to a landslide 1980 defeat to Republican icon Ronald Reagan, and one of two to pick Walter Mondale over Reagan four years later -- but the state often elects Republicans to statewide offices. GOP presidential candidates have eyed it for years as their margins of defeat have narrowed.

Marilyn and Mark Holte enter and exit the voting booth at the East Grand Forks Senior Citizens Center during Tuesday's Minnesota primary. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

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