by Mike Knaak
Steve Soyka and Dave Bentrud will compete for Stearns County sheriff in the Nov. 6 general election.
Voters chose Soyka and Bentrud from a four-candidate field in the Aug 14 primary election.
Soyka finished with 7,346 votes followed by Bentrud with 6,335 votes, Robert Dickhaus with 4,112 votes and Dwight Pfannenstein with 1,115. Although his name remained on the ballot, Pfannenstein withdrew from active campaigning after his appointment as St. Joseph police chief in June.
St. Cloud school district voters selected six candidates from a nine-candidate field to compete for three four-years terms.
Zachary Dorholt topped all candidates with 5,102 votes. The other five candidates moving on to the general election are Natalie Ringsmuth with 4,596 votes, Larry Hosch with 4,448 votes, Les Green with 4,084 votes, Beth Schlangen with 3,638 votes and Peter Hamerlinck with 2,975 votes.
Candidates Kathleen Steiner, Scott Andreasen and Thomas Kufalk were eliminated.
According to preliminary results from the Minnesota Secretary of State, 24 percent of Stearns County’s 86,741 registered voters cast ballots. Statewide, primary turnout surpassed a 20-year high. Democratic Party voters outnumbered Republicans two-to-one.
In the sheriff’s race, both candidates have extensive law enforcement backgrounds. Soyka is a Stearns County Sheriff’s Office sergeant and Bentrud is Waite Park Police Chief. Stearns County will elect a new sheriff for the first time in 16 years. Donald Gudmundson was appointed sheriff after Sheriff John Sanner resigned.
St. Joseph area voters followed the countywide trend with Soyka gathering 399 votes and Bentrud gathering 293 votes in the city of St. Joseph and St. Joseph Township.
In Sartell, Bentrud came out on top with 784 votes compared with Soyka’s 702.
Statewide, former two-term governor Tim Pawlenty failed in his bid to return to the governor’s office. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, the Republican-endorsed candidate, won with 53 percent of the vote compared with Pawlenty’s 44 percent. Johnson will face Democrat Tim Walz in the general election.
In Stearns County, Pawlenty and his lieutenant governor running mate, Michelle Fischbach, edged out Johnson by 26 votes. Fischbach a longtime Stearns County elected official, resigned as District 13 state senator.