While Minnesota Democrats were choosing John Kerry and Republicans rallied for President Bush, the Independence Party (search) was talking bison — the early favorite to become the party's mascot.

"The bison is far ahead," spokeswoman Laura Knudsen (search) said on Tuesday night.

With about a third of the votes in — or roughly 200 ballots — the other finalists appeared to be the hawk and the white buffalo, all vying to become the symbol of the Independence Party.

The rest of the votes will be mailed in and counted Friday. The eventual top three vote-getters will move on to the party's central committee convention in April.

The young party, whose best-known member is former Gov. Jesse Ventura (search), has been working to establish a lasting political identity in Minnesota. Party officials say picking a mascot will help.

The options were bison, hawk, roaring lion, moose, white buffalo, wild boar and loon.

"The loon didn't do too well," Knudsen said.