Governor’s race too close to call

Hatch and Pawlenty were neck-and-neck as of press time. Hutchinson conceded.

Emily Banks

As of Daily press time, the gubernatorial race between Republican incumbent Tim Pawlenty and DFL Attorney General Mike Hatch hadn’t been determined, although Independence Party Peter Hutchinson had conceded.

Pawlenty led the race with 46.76 percent as of 11:39 p.m. Hatch polled at 45.45 percent with about 75 percent of precincts reporting.

Pawlenty, Republican

People at the Republican Party headquarters were still optimistic despite being down in polls earlier in the week.

Republican Party State Chair Ron Carey said, “I am confident we are going to re-elect the governor tonight,” to the crowd.

Megan Haberling, a journalism senior, said she came to the headquarters to “see the Republicans win.”

Tyler Sunderman, chairman of the Minnesota College Republicans, said he believes the governor stands in a good position to take the lead.

He said he thought many of the recent mistakes Hatch and running mate Judi Dutcher have made are playing a role in the close race.

Brian McClung, Pawlenty’s spokesman, said, “this is a race that has been neck-and-neck for weeks, and it’s neck-and-neck tonight.”

He said that if you look at the remaining precincts, he thought it puts Pawlenty in a good position to win. They are districts where Pawlenty polled strongly in 2002.

GOVERNOR
Results as of 11:39 p.m. Tuesday

Walt Brown (Quit Raising Taxes) …….. .42 percent
Leslie Davis (American Party) …….. .17 percent
Mike Hatch (Democratic-Farmer-Labor) …….. 45.45 percent
Peter Hutchinson (Independence) …….. 6.67 percent
Tim Pawlenty (Republican) …….. 46.76 percent
Ken Pentel (Green Party) …….. .49 percent

Also, voters between 18 and 34 have shown Pawlenty either leading in them or very close. Many young voters support Pawlenty, McClung said.

Pawlenty’s record as governor included turning a $4.5 billion deficit into a surplus without raising taxes, the largest turnaround in Minnesota history.

This has given him prominence in the national Republican Party.

Some have even questioned possible presidential or vice-presidential runs in 2008, but Pawlenty has responded with jokes and said he is committed to his current re-election campaign for governor.

His leading critics, Hatch and Hutchinson, have hammered him with complaints of rising property taxes, college tuition and health care costs occurring under his watch.

Hatch, DFL

The DFL headquarters was full of cheers for DFL candidates.

Despite missteps in the last days of the campaign by Hatch and running mate Dutcher, the two squeaked ahead in the polls.

Dutcher was unfamiliar with E-85 in a televised interview in Alexandria. Hatch allegedly called Forum Communications Co. reporter Scott Wente, who was questioning him about the Dutcher E-85 slip, a “Republican whore.” Hatch initially said he called Wente a “Republican hack,” but now says he may have called the reporter a whore.

Hatch championed his fight against health care giants and HMOs. He said would be a staunch defender of the middle class.

Hatch ran for governor and lost in 1990 and 1994. He became Minnesota’s attorney general in 1998 and won again in 2002.

Noah Seligman, the President of the UDFL, said, “This is the one race we’re not quite sure of just yet. “It’s important to remember we had a really big turnout on campus. Across all campuses DFL members are encouraged by high voter turnout.”

Seligman said he didn’t know or care when the race would be called, but added that “there will be a Governor Hatch in the near future.”

Hutchinson, Independence

The Independence Party even had the support of the local band the Honeydogs and Hutchinson’s daughter Julie dressed as the party’s bison mascot.

Hutchinson, a former executive at the Dayton-Hudson Corp., has been trailing in poll after poll since the race began, but his campaigning never wavered. He claimed to have shaken more Minnesotan hands than any other candidate.

He campaigned strongly about getting health care under control and the savings this would bring to Minnesota.

“I’ve never run for office (before),” Hutchinson said, while thanking his campaign staff. “And I might do it again.”

Gordon West, a global studies senior who worked on the campaign for Hutchinson, said he was encouraged by the campaign.

“We ran a good campaign, we ran a clean campaign,” he said. “I think keeping it positive is only going to be good for us in the future.”

Hallie O’Connor, a junior art major, went straight to the Independence Party headquarters after class, and said she found the event overwhelming.

She said she had previously voted Democrat, but was disappointed by Hatch’s speech at a recent debate.

– Kathryn Nelson and Karlee Weinmann contributed to this article.