Northern Minnesota gives Dayton late victory over Kelliher

Mark Dayton and running mate Yvonne Prettner Solon met with reporters late Tuesday night.
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Mark Dayton and running mate Yvonne Prettner Solon met with reporters late Tuesday night.

The mood swing was stunning.

As the vote tallies moved away from the metropolitan area and into the northern regions of the state, Mark Dayton had a bounce in his step. His small group of staffers could even be seen smiling.

“It’s going to be late, it’s going to be close,” Dayton said as the night wore on.

And he was right on both counts.

But the later the hour became, the more it seemed inevitable. Dayton might win his race against Margaret Anderson Kelliher.

At 11:50, a mighty cheer went up among the strange collection of old DFLers and young staffers who follow Dayton.

After trailing throughout the night, Dayton had taken a slight lead over Kelliher.

At 12:20 a.m., the Associated Press called the race for Dayton.

Oh what a night of shifting moods.

Early in the evening, the air conditioner was broken, Kelliher had dominated in the metropolitan area as no one in the Dayton campaign had expected. She carried Hennepin County by a 50-35 margin; Ramsey County by 43-34.

They’d expected to lose, but not by that much of a margin.

But St. Louis County, the Range, apparently belonged to Dayton.

The side story in all of this was what a meager showing Matt Entenza made in this race. After spending millions, he was winning just 18 percent of the vote and conceded early, by 9:30 p.m.

The differences between the two campaigns couldn’t have been greater.

From 8:30 on, Dayton was at his very modest headquarters along with maybe 100 supporters and 30 or 40 reporters. He ambled about, issuing statements to the press once in a while, chatted with friends.

“I’ve had two German shepherds at home,’’ he said at about midnight. “They were probably expecting me hours ago. The floors may be a mess, but other than that, I have nothing to do but stay around here with family and friends.”

Meantime, Kelliher wasn’t to be seen at Jax Café, the DFL Party headquarters. Instead, Sen. Amy Klobuchar kept the crowd as positive as possible as the numbers turned on the endorsed candidate.

“It’s going to be a long night,’’ she said, but urged Kelliher followers not to be faint of heart.

Dayton refused to predict victory, but he was gracious in complimenting Kelliher on running a fine race.

Even as his lead grew after the midnight hour, he continued to stay cautious.

“It’s sudden death overtime,” he said, describing the contest as a hockey game. (Like Gov. Tim Pawlenty, recall, Dayton once was a hockey player.)

Dayton also was laying the praise on his running mate, Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon of Duluth.

“You’re pulling us through this,’’ Dayton said to Solon, noting that she was the only Greater Minnesota resident on any of the tickets.

Dayton, who had seemed so resigned to failure earlier in the evening when the air conditioning was broken and those first results were coming in, said, “I’m not comfortable at all,’’ as the numbers kept heading more and more his way.

Smiling grimly, the man who has been running political races since 1982 in Minnesota, said he’d never get used to the tension of election night.

When the word recount was mentioned as a possibility, Dayton shook his head.

“Haven’t thought about it,” he said.

He did think, however, that it might be premature for the DFL to go ahead with its unity rally on Wednesday morning.

“We shouldn’t be doing that until this is over,’’ Dayton said.

At 12:30 this morning, Dayton’s two numbers crunchers, Brian Rice and Jim Niland, addressed the reporters who were hanging on.

They weren’t declaring victory. But they did point out that they were confident of the numbers that showed an increasing lead. They said, they believed this race would end with Dayton holding a 41 to 40 per cent lead, enough to get the former senator past the need for a recount.

The two did say that they took a bigger hit in Minneapolis, its western suburbs and St. Paul than they’d expected. But that the rally actually began in Dakota, Washington and Anoka counties before he began rolling as the counts came in from the north.

Well after midnight, Kelliher finally did speak to her supporters at about 12:30, telling her supporters that she remained “optimistic” and that she was going home for the night to wait to see what the final results were going to be.

“I respect her prerogative to wait until every vote has been counted,” Dayton said.

Then, he and his staffers started party building.

His staff members insisted there would be no celebration on any account, because only now does the campaign begin, they said.

For his part, Dayton said that all three of the DFL choices were good.

“Now all three of us have the responsibility to bring the party together,’’ he said.

At 12:50, he was asked if he was going home.

“No,” he said. “I’m going to wait until this is resolved. Maybe we can be on the morning news shows.”

He then thanked his staff and said, laughing, “Your reward is now we can work even harder.’’

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Comments (25)

  1. Submitted by Dean Carlson on 08/11/2010 - 07:32 am.

    Great. That’s 3 straight election cycles where Democrats had a choice between a candidate who could appeal to voters statewide (including the vote rich suburbs) and a tired old pol who appeals to union stewards, selected party hacks, and sparsely populated northern Minnesota.

    At least 4 years of an Emmer administration will be fun to watch.

  2. Submitted by Paul Scott on 08/11/2010 - 07:36 am.

    I would say the candidate with the clearest message won. If the Mpls liberals are disappointed they should have selected Rybak, he would have been a stronger choice, IMHO, than Kelliher, who seemed more annointed than anything else. I like Dayton’s chances against Emmer. The whole big taxer charge doesn’t work, because we have seen where 8 years of no new taxes got us, and because Dayton has his arguments lined up and he makes no apologies for wanting to tax people of all income levels at equal percentage of their income. If raising taxes on couples grossing more than 170K to help get us out of the hole we are in is objectionable to some, those people need to get their heads out of the sand. His only liability is that he is not tested at getting the house votes lined up, but he surely will have an easier go of that than Emmer, who will struggle to even get all GOP voters on board.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/11/2010 - 07:42 am.

    That was a wild ride indeed.

  4. Submitted by Brian Simon on 08/11/2010 - 08:04 am.

    I agree with all of Paul’s points; 1) the DFL should have gone with Ryback and 2) Dayton will likely beat Emmer. Dean, while I agree with your criticism of the DFL’s record at selecting candidates, I don’t think Emmer has the same ability as Pawlenty to come across as reasonable – and therefore Emmer won’t win.

  5. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/11/2010 - 08:10 am.

    Another DFL party-endorsed candidate doesn’t make it out of the primary. How many is that now?

  6. Submitted by Paul Scott on 08/11/2010 - 08:17 am.

    BTW, Dean, the DFL apparatchiks didn’t select Dayton, they selected Kelliher. The rank and file voters selected Dayton, because he had a clearly articulated message: 1) Fair and progressive tax system. 2) Fund early childhood, k-12 and secondary education. I think voters found that more persuasive than “I am tested in the house and can unite people from all over the state.”

  7. Submitted by Jim Spensley on 08/11/2010 - 08:23 am.

    It is a mistake to follow only the percentage of the votes as they are reported. The totals, raw numbers, are better because they may indicate turn-out and, in this case, which party primary has more participation.

    Early returns are from Metro Counties, where there are many precincts, of widely varying sizes. This makes the “per cent reporting” less than useful as a gauge of turn-out, participation, or votes counted.

    When almost all of the Metro precincts had reported, Speaker Kelliher’s lead of several percentage points was not aa significant as it might have been if more DFL voters had turned out or if there had been a large number of election-day registrations.

    At the point Senator Dayton began to close the gap based on news reports, about 9:30 PM, hardly any precincts in the 8th Congressional District had reported. Although there might have been more surprises awaiting, it was becoming apparent that Sen Dayton would eventually win.

    Polls suffered from difficulty in identifying “likely voters” and as a result error margins were not easily estimated greater than usual. Publishing polls showing a double-digit Dayton win may have discouraged some Kelliher and Entenza voters and reduced voting urgency for voters with a slight Dayton preference.

  8. Submitted by Lora Jones on 08/11/2010 - 08:28 am.

    Unfortunately for her, Kelliher made very little attempt to appeal to anyone EXCEPT Greater Metro area voters. There were rumors at the convention that she was going to pick a CD8er as running mate. She didn’t. And the results imply that that was a mistake.

  9. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/11/2010 - 08:33 am.

    Right on the heels of spending another $26 Billion borrowed Chinese Yuan, the Democrat party votes to run one of Time Magazine’s 5 worst US Senators of all time for Governor; Mark “The Blunderer” Dayton.

    Further, this chronically manic depressive, “recovering” alcoholic is on record as having been swilling alcoholic beverages as recently as two weeks ago.

    Did you see him stumbling around the poll yesterday trying to find the voting machine?

    What are you people thinking?

  10. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 08/11/2010 - 08:37 am.

    I cannot wait for the “alliance for a better MN” TV ads against Mark Dayton and his alcoholism.

  11. Submitted by Paul Landskroener on 08/11/2010 - 08:40 am.

    Isn’t anyone else upset that a clear majority — 59% — of DFL voters chose someone OTHER than Mark Dayton as their candidate? Where is the justice in that? It seems to me that we are looking at another plurality-elected governor this November — make that “minority” elected governor. It is high time and long overdue for voting reform — namely instant runoff or ranked choice voting — to ensure that candidates nominated (if you retain primary electinos) or elected carry the support of a majority of the voters.

  12. Submitted by Paul Scott on 08/11/2010 - 08:44 am.

    Is that all you got Swift? Time magazine? Booze? Glass houses, friend.

  13. Submitted by Dean Carlson on 08/11/2010 - 08:47 am.

    I realize that the DFL endorsed MAK that’s why I used the term “selected party hacks.” My concern is that Dayton was elected using the same coalition that got Moe and Hatch to the general election and look where that got us — especially since both Judy Dutcher or Steve Kelley could have probably have beaten T-Paw.

    Also read Tom Swifts comment above. If you don’t think Dayton is not going to be bludgeoned by November 2, you are sadly naive about how Republicans play politics.

  14. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 08/11/2010 - 08:59 am.

    Fog didn’t let the sun shine this morning…but another native son did…Congratulations!

    Dayton is what Minnesota needs to bring back Minnesota as a progressive state…bringing back its root-liberalism.

    May Kelliher have the dignity to concede graciously rather than time wasted challenging the winner; and work for Dayton’s governorship campaign.

    …and two German Shepherds waiting at home?
    As a lover of the breed, it will be an added bonus for this voter to see such intelligent and elegant companion dogs gracing the Gov mansion.

    Congratulations Dayton, Prettner-Solon!

  15. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 08/11/2010 - 09:20 am.

    I like Dayton’s unashamedly liberal politics; MAK struck me as a pseudo-liberal compromiser from the beginning when what we need is a fearless liberal to put Minnesota back on track. However, compared to someone like Ryback, a shrewd and competent leader who has years of successful governance of Minneapolis behind him, Dayton comes off as something of a well-intentioned bumbler. Still, like the first couple of commenters said, he will beat Emmer, who won’t pass Minnesotans’ crazy detectors.

  16. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/11/2010 - 09:33 am.

    ‘Emmer king of FUD’ is not in a great position to make an issue of alcoholism.

  17. Submitted by Martha Grant on 08/11/2010 - 09:59 am.

    I also like Dayton’s classic Minnesota liberal stance – I just hope his staff crafts some more state-wide, suburb-friendly messages for him. Yes, we need taxes, but Emmer & co will be shouting ‘tax & spend liberal’ now till November. And even Minnesotans like money in their pocketbooks. May the Dayton camp come up with good, witty responses for Emmer’s attacks.

  18. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/11/2010 - 10:03 am.

    Paradigm shift: The general public in the State of Minnesota has finally awakened to the fact that being a lower tax state hasn’t improved their quality of life and his, in fact done them a lot of damage and, in the end is costing regular folks a lot of money.

    We’re being nickled and dimed to death and, once again, the elderly on fixed incomes are facing losing their homes because of property tax increases.

    These renewed realizations are exactly why Mark Dayton is the perfect candidate and why MAK’s cautious, non-confrontational, middle-of-the-road approach would have been so mistaken.

    The general public having realized what we’ve lost under “no new taxes,” and that we’ve gained nothing while those at the top have made off like robber barons, is MORE than ready to make such an abrupt left turn as to give our big money, conservative Republican friends whiplash (especially since they thought they had hypnotized us all into seeing the world only from their, very limited, point of view. Dayton is the one to lead us as we make that very abrupt turn.

  19. Submitted by m. claire on 08/11/2010 - 10:10 am.

    Nicely said, Paul.

  20. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/11/2010 - 10:25 am.

    One of the 5 worst US Senators in history; practising alcoholism and mental illness.

    You forgot diagnosed mental illness, Paul.

    Don’t get me wrong; I couldn’t be happier at the Democrat choice. I just can’t believe they made it.

  21. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 08/11/2010 - 10:32 am.

    I’m glad Dayton won. His honest admission to being an unabashed liberal is refreshing coming from the left. I was afraid we’d get a democrat like Margaret whose wishy-washy faux centrism might confuse the independent voters and convince them to vote for the nice lady over Emmer.

    That God that won’t happen. It’s all come down to turn-out and the election will be decided by the independents who polls show are starting to lean right.

  22. Submitted by david zuhn on 08/11/2010 - 11:41 am.

    I am happy with the selection of Dayton. But, unlike races where the primary candidates go at each other to the bitter end, this race was all about 3 people who are trying to beat Tom Emmer. Not each other.

    I would have been just as happy with the selection of Kelliher or Entenza. They’re both good candidates. But the people who voted in this primary apparently see Dayton as the best candidate for this fall.

    I doubt that there will be any serious problem with the fact that 59% of the voters did not choose Dayton. The differences between the candidates is quite small, and the difference between any of the 3 and Emmer is enormous.

    Maybe today (and for the rest of the week) there will be grumbling within the machine of each candidate that “their” person didn’t win. But the mere thought of “Governor Emmer” will be enough to bring them all into supporting the DFL candidate. Maybe not so much as pro-Dayton but there-but-for-me-goes-Emmer.

    If the primary had gone negative, that wouldn’t be so obvious to me. But the entire tone of the race so far was very positive and focused on the election in November more so than the one we just had.

    Clearly there was a large DFL voter turnout — not just the party faithful. If it were the party faithful, MAK would have won with the endorsement. But there are a lot of strong DFL voters who don’t feel they have to ally with the party nominee to get what they want, and that was proven again with yet another DFL-convention-nominee who is not going to win in November.

    At least this time we still have a chance that there will be a DFL winner in November.

  23. Submitted by Ross Williams on 08/11/2010 - 12:44 pm.

    The argument that the reason the state is facing a huge deficit is because some people aren’t paying their fair share resonates with both conservatives and liberals. The problem for Dayton is that the right-wing talk show hosts have convinced a lot of people that its the poor and middle-income folks that aren’t paying their share.

    The DFL endorsement process is broken. The results no longer even vaguely reflect the interests of DFL voters. Party kingmakers can deliver a handful of true believers to caucuses that ultimately select candidates. But they have no real ability to deliver votes.

  24. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 08/11/2010 - 12:51 pm.

    I was just reading the Time article.

    “One of the 5 worst US Senators in history”

    The senators in the article were active. So it’s not “in history”. As declared by what Mr. Swift on any other day would dismiss as a “lefty rag” – how convenient that it is the pinnacle of truth when it agrees with him. And finally, the article is a two-paragraph blurb that’s not exactly damning. Mostly his biggest offense was not passing bills; as an unabashed liberal in a Republican-run senate, I don’t really know what we expected him to pass.

  25. Submitted by Loretta Holscher on 08/12/2010 - 02:38 pm.

    I would like to know more about Dayton’s running mate Yvonne Prettner Solon.

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