Minnesota routinely leads the nation in voter turnout for elections. That has given the state an image of an engaged, politically aware population.

I’ve always thought that way myself, but my belief was shaken a bit when I was talking to a Twin Cities resident about the primary election. The endorsed Republican candidate in Congressional District 1 lost, a surprise, perhaps even shock, to party officials as the endorsed congressional candidate in District 1 has never lost a primary challenge, or has rarely even been challenged, in recent memory.

When I mentioned the primary election winner, Jim Hagedorn, to this person who lives outside the district, he wasn’t surprised. He’s got the name, he told me, and people in Minnesota tend to vote for a name they recognize, even if the name recognition doesn’t have anything to do with the person running or that candidate’s politics.

Jim Hagedorn is the son of former Minnesota Congressman Tom Hagedorn. Tom Hagedorn served in the Minnesota House from 1971 to 1975 and in Congress from 1975 until 1982 when Tim Penny defeated him.

It isn’t just Republicans — or even Democrats, where examples abound today, because there are more DFLers in office in Minnesota than Republicans.

Go back to Jesse Ventura, who served as governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003. He ran as an independent through the Reform Party, beating the odds of a third party candidate with a surprising win that shocked the state’s establishment. His only previous political experience was as mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minn.

Jesse Ventura was actually his stage name, replacing James George Janos. And, even in his campaigning, he often went by Jesse “The Body” Ventura, his ring name in professional wrestling from 1975 to 1986.

Most residents may not have known about his previous stardom — he was elected to the World Wrestling Federation Hall of Fame in 2004 — at first, but by the time the election rolled around, despite his low budget campaign, they sure knew he was a former professional wrestler with a flamboyant personality.

Minnesota’s current governor, Mark Dayton, doesn’t have the flair that Ventura had, but he has a well-known name. The former state auditor and U.S. senator is the great grandson of George Dayton, the founder of Dayton’s, a department store that had a strong presence in the state until it later became Target Corporation.

Both current U.S. senators also have well-known names.

Al Franken is a nationally known comedian and actor who gained prominence as a writer and performer on “Saturday Night Live.” He won a tight election against incumbent Norm Coleman six years ago.

Amy Klobuchar, the first woman to be elected senator from Minnesota, doesn’t have quite the same recognition as the others, but she is the daughter of Jim Klobuchar, who was a well-known sportswriter and columnist for the Star Tribune.

Of course, this isn’t to say that only fame swept all these people into office. For example, Klobuchar, the least known of this group, won by the largest margin and expanded on that margin of victory to easily win reelection two years ago.

And the others, particularly Ventura, had unique messages that resonated with many voters. Still, the results do raise questions if there were enough voters making choices based merely on name, or fame, to push them over the top?

It isn’t just a Minnesota phenomenon. It’s just that we expect more in Minnesota — not just to lead the nation in quantity of votes as we do every year, but also to lead in quality of voting.

So, take a step back from the seemingly endless propaganda, most of it negative, that attempts to shape our opinions without revealing the core philosophies of candidates. Do some research, identify important issues and find out where the candidates stand.

If you want to do that on a local level, there are some groups that have stepped up to help. The Hanson-Raabe Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4114 is hosting a “meet the candidates public forum” at its post in downtown Spring Valley on Tuesday, Sept. 30, starting at 7 p.m., with candidates for Fillmore County sheriff and District 3 commissioner.

The Rushford Peterson Valley Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a “meet the candidates” forum with candidates for the Minnesota House in District 28B and Fillmore County sheriff on Wednesday, Oct. 22. More details on the forum location and time will be available later.

It’s a good bet that most of you reading this will make the effort to vote in Minnesota’s election. Now, just make sure to take a little more effort to make sure your vote is an informed one.