Dayton victor in U.S. Senate campaign, but Grams yet to concede

by George Fairbanks

Although the polls show DFL nominee Mark Dayton to be Minnesota’s next U.S. Senator, one candidate and his staff aren’t buying it.
Republican incumbent Rod Grams refused to concede the election when television stations began to call the race for Dayton shortly after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Late Wednesday Grams still had not made any sort of concession to Dayton. His campaign did not return repeated phone calls.
It is known, however, that unless something extraordinary happens, Dayton will join his Democratic counterpart Paul Wellstone in Washington, D.C. Whether or not Grams chooses to speak publicly has no bearing on the outcome.
Much of the speculation circulating among the media and pundits suggests that Dayton ran a nearly flawless campaign while the Grams campaign was riddled with side issues.
During the primary season, a top Grams aid was accused of sending illegal e-mails in an effort to undermine DFL candidates, specifically Mike Ciresi who at the time was considered the leading contender for the nomination.
In addition to the e-mail charges, Grams also dealt with his son Morgan’s latest round of legal troubles. The younger Grams is still being held in a New Mexico jail facing numerous charges.
Coinciding with those distractions, Grams had to continually fight charges of running an excessively negative campaign.
Throughout the contest, Grams and his staff made a habit of referring to Dayton as “Mark Liberal” and “Minnesota’s No. 1 Drug Lord” in reference to Dayton’s former ownership of drug stock.
The question now becomes, what does the ousted 52-year-old senator do?
Before running for U.S. Congress in 1992, Grams was a news anchor on KMSP-TV in the Twin Cities.
It is highly improbable, though, that any area television station would welcome Grams back into the anchor chair.
Scott Libin, KSTP-TV news director, noted that there is a problem of people moving from office to a television studio.
“I would have concerns with putting someone with such a partisan background in as a journalist, especially an anchor,” Libin said.
He also expressed doubt whether Grams would be willing to enter a rank-and-file newsroom after running his own senatorial staff for the last six years.
University journalism professor Bill Babcock also commented on the trend of former elected officials and staff members becoming journalists and commentators.
“Is it a good trend? I would say no,” he said. “Whether or not that person could be objective would be questioned by the viewers. One could make the argument that it does resonate with people and contributes to the cynicism.”
While the chances of a return to media seem slim, Grams will likely have opportunities within his party or as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.
“I don’t think it’s to anyone’s benefit to know what the political views of a Dan Rather are,” Babcock said.

George Fairbanks covers elections and welcomes comments at [email protected]