It was a long way from the days of recounts.
Sen. Al Franken, a recount winner six years ago, and Gov. Mark Dayton, who also won following a recount four years ago, both were declared victors by television networks within moments of the polls closing Tuesday evening.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar framed Franken’s political career this way: “Last time it was six months, this time it was six seconds.’’ The line drew laughs, but it also was accurate. Recall, just six years ago, Franken didn’t know for six months how his race against incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman would turn out. After months of recounts, he won — by 312 votes.
This time, it was a stunningly easy triumph over Republican challenger Mike McFadden, who conceded with an emotional speech at about 10:20 p.m.
By the middle of the night, however, it became clear that control of the Minnesota House had flipped to the Republicans, re-instituting divided state government in Minnesota.
Franken will be heading back to a different Senate than the one he entered six years ago. He will now be in the minority, as Republicans regained control of the legislative body for the first time in eight years after picking up seats in Arkansas, Iowa, West Virginia, Montana, South Dakota, Colorado and North Carolina (so far).
Dayton’s victory was just as shockingly one-sided over GOP challenger Jeff Johnson. The margin of Dayton’s win far-exceeded what recent polls had shown, and Johnson called Dayton late in the evening, conceding defeat. “It’s a difficult call to make,’’ Dayton said of Johnson’s concession. “It’s a difficult call to make — I know that from experience.’’
Dayton not only thanked those who supported him, but had words for those who voted against him. “We all want the same for Minnesota,’’ he said. “We just disagree on the details.’’
The size of the Dayton-Franken victories not only had DFLers gathered at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Minneapolis smiling — it had them hopeful that lopsided wins would help the party pull out victories in the 7th and 8th Congressional Districts, where incumbents Collin Peterson and Rick Nolan were facing tough opposition from Republicans Torrey Westrum and Stewart Mills. They both went on to win — Nolan by less than two percentage points.
At the Loews Hotel, only a few blocks from the Hilton, Republicans were holding onto hope that Mills would win and become the GOP’s new “rock star,’’ but it wasn’t to be. They also were confident that the party could take over the majority in the state House, and by early morning it did.
The closeness of the House races showed up in District 48A, where a recount will be in order following the race between incumbent DFLer Yvonne Selcer and former state representative Kirk Stensrud. At this point, Selcer is a winner, but the champagne corks aren’t being popped. She has a lead of just 36 votes.
Much of what happened Tuesday night was predictable. In the 1st Congressional District, Democratic incumbent Tim Walz sailed past the GOP’s Jim Hagedorn; in the 2nd, incumbent Republican John Kline had little problem against Democratic challenger Mike Obermueller; in the 3rd, Republican Erik Paulsen had a no-anxiety win over Democrat Sharon Sund; and the 4th and 5th Districts remained safe seats for Democrats Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison.
The 6th District also went as expected, but there’s context to the story. Republican Tom Emmer was a recount loser to Dayton four years ago. He was an easy winner in his congressional race against Democrat Joe Perske Tuesday, and now will go to D.C., the successor to Michele Bachmann.
The down-ticket races went as expected. Incumbent attorney general Lori Swanson and incumbent auditor Rebecca Otto both won with ease. DFLer Steve Simon won a narrow victory over Republican Dan Severson in the race to replace Mark Ritchie as secretary of state.
In Minneapolis, a bitterly fought race for two at-large Minneapolis School Board seats saw DFL-endorsed incumbent Rebecca Gagnon finish first, capturing 33.5 percent of the vote. The other party endorsee, labor activist Iris Altamirano, was edged out by two points for the other seat by former city council member Don Samuels. Most of the rest of the votes went to Ira Jourdain. The race made national headlines in recent weeks after an infusion of cash from education reform advocates and teacher unions pushed spending to at least $500,000 — some five times as much as record-setting races in 2012 and 2010. In the races tied to geographic districts, DFL endorsees Siad Ali, Jenny Arneson and Nelson Inz won. Ali and Arneson ran unopposed.
Two Minneapolis ballot measures also passed easily. Question No. 2’s passage rids the city’s charter of a requirement that neighborhood restaurants have at least 70 percent of sales in food vs. beer and wine. Question No. 1’s passage will mean that filing fees for city offices will be raised — an attempt to cut down on the large number of candidates who entered last year’s ranked choice city election.
For more details and results on other Minnesota races, check out MinnPost’s 2014 election dashboard.