Dayton defeats Kelliher

DFL-endorsee Kelliher wouldn’t concede the election Tuesday night.

Dayton defeats Kelliher

James Nord

Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton defeated Margaret Anderson Kelliher on Tuesday after a long and costly DFL primary election process.
As of midnight, with around 95 percent of precincts reporting, former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton held a slim, roughly 1,000-vote lead over Kelliher, the DFL-endorsee. A third candidate, Matt Entenza, dropped out of the race earlier in the night.
Even after the Associated Press called the election for Dayton, Kelliher was resilient when addressing her supporters and did not immediately concede.
“We’re not making any decisions, we have some numbers to come in yet and we’re optimistic about that,” she said just before 1 a.m. “This is grassroots democracy, this is what we’re fighting for.”
Republican Tom Emmer and Independence Party candidate Tom Horner easily won their primary contests, setting up two-thirds of the Nov. 2 gubernatorial contest.
In polls leading up to the election, Dayton held large leads over his opponents.
A June 17 poll showed him leading Kelliher by as many as 17 percentage points. That lead appeared to hold, as two polls on Aug. 1 and 5 showed Dayton to be leading by 23 and 16 percentage points, respectively.
At Dayton headquarters in St. Paul, optimism over pre-election polls quickly faded as early results favored Kelliher.
As more results rolled in and Kelliher’s lead started shrinking into the single digits, Dayton addressed the media.
“It’s too close to call and it will probably be a long night,” Dayton said. “Hennepin and Ramsey have come in first of all, but we didn’t expect to do quite as well, in those counties especially.”
Dayton said that the campaign would be waiting for results from Northern Minnesota, such as St. Louis County, where the campaign found broader support than in the metropolitan area.
Officials had estimated earlier Tuesday night that the race would likely need to be recounted. According to Minnesota law, the race would have required a recount if the margin between the top candidates stood at less than one-half of one percent. Such a recount would need to have been completed quickly in order to print the general election ballots.
Matt Entenza told a crowd of supporters filling his campaign office at about 9:30 p.m. that he was no longer a candidate for the general election this November.
“Tomorrow at 11 o’ clock, when it’s clear who the DFL candidate is, [running mate] Robyne [Robinson] and I will stand up and support that candidate,” Entenza, the former Minnesota House minority leader, said. “Tom Emmer cannot be the next governor of the state of Minnesota.”
Entenza cited radical views on cuts to education and health care among Emmer’s faults.
Numerous supporters and campaign volunteers shed tears and hugged following the announcement, while simultaneously committing to support the DFL as a whole in November.
“For the last 16 months, this campaign has had the best volunteers and interns we could ever ask for,” said Deputy Press Secretary Jake Levy-Pollans, after Entenza’s concession speech.
“Today we saw the DFL come together with a common vision that we need to take our state back and make our schools great again,” Levy-Pollans said.
Entenza held a steady 17 to 18 percent of the reported votes from 8:30 p.m. through the night.
“It is with tremendous regret that I know that I will not become governor of the state of Minnesota, but it is with tremendous pride that I know that I am part of the DFL,” Entenza said in his concession speech.
As of midnight, Kelliher hadn’t arrived at her election party in Northeast Minneapolis.
After winning the party’s endorsement at the DFL convention in April, beating Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Kelliher drew on party support and major labor endorsements, including Education Minnesota and the Minnesota Nurses Association, to build a grassroots campaign. She didn’t have the personal fortunes of either of her opponents, each of whom donated millions of dollars to their own campaigns.
Before the primary, the campaign contacted 2 million voters, reaching 100,000 on Tuesday alone, Kelliher’s running mate, John Gunyou, said.
Dayton skipped the endorsement process altogether, even pulling his name off the ballot at the DFL convention in April.
In principle, Kelliher and Dayton presented roughly the same fiscal policy throughout the campaign, though Dayton was more radical in how to close the roughly $6 billion deficit the state faces next biennium.
Dayton would raise taxes on individuals making more than $130,000 a year. He would use the increased revenue to close 80 percent of the budget deficit and use spending cuts to close the other 20 percent.
Kelliher would use a medley of tax increases, spending cuts and one-time deferments to quash the state’s deficit. Forty percent would be solved by increased tax revenue, 30 percent by spending cuts and the rest using delayed payments similar to one used by Gov. Tim Pawlenty this past session.
For the Republicans, Tom Emmer vigorously opposes raising taxes, calling for spending cuts and smaller government to solve the state’s budget crisis and lower taxes to entice businesses to put people back to work.
At Kelliher’s campaign party, U.S. Sen. Al Franken told her supporters to be patient during the tight race.
Franken himself only won his seat last year after a lengthy recount and legal battle with Republican Norm Coleman.
“It’s not a good idea to claim victory early,” Franken said.