Republican Pawlenty becomes Minnesota’s governor-elect

by The Minnesota Daily

Minnesota voters made Republican Tim Pawlenty their next governor in Tuesday’s elections.

“It’s going to be a great time for the state in terms of the leadership and vision that we’re going to bring forward,” Pawlenty said during his victory speech.

With 70 percent of precincts reporting, Pawlenty had 45 percent of the vote. Democrat Roger Moe had 35 percent of the vote, Independence Party candidate Tim Penny garnered 16 percent and Ken Pentel of the Green Party received 2 percent.

Said Moe: “This campaign has been a tremendous battle of issues, and I just want to thank (the other candidates) for making this a good and competitive race for all parties.”

Race to the finish

pawlenty, Moe and Penny were locked in a tight contest throughout the summer and fall campaign seasons as poll after poll showed any of the candidates could win the election.

Surveys showed support for Penny was declining in the two weeks before the election, following a typical pattern for third-party candidates.

But the volatility of the public’s mood after Sen. Paul Wellstone’s Oct. 25 death meant pollsters and the public were effectively flying blind about each candidate’s status in the campaign’s closing days.

“Two weeks ago we had a three-way tie with 15 percent undecided,” Penny said as he conceded Tuesday night. “But Minnesota has been through a lot in the last two weeks and that broke our winning streak.”

Carlson School of Management graduate student Nancy Weeks said Penny’s candidacy changed the way she voted.

“Penny was a breath of fresh air,” she said. “I split my ticket for the first time in all the years I have been voting.”

Penny said he and running mate Martha Robertson would find another way to serve Minnesotans.

The most recent gubernatorial poll, published Sunday by the St. Paul Pioneer Press, showed Pawlenty drawing 36 percent support, with Moe obtaining 32 percent, Penny 16 percent and Pentel 2 percent, with a 4 percentage point margin of error.

Greens’ major-party status

the governor’s race was one of the high-profile races that Minnesota’s fourth major party, the Green Party, looked to as a means of keeping its major-party status. As of press time, the party didn’t have the necessary votes to retain that status.

“We are still growing, we are still learning,” Pentel said. “The issues don’t go away. There are still homeless; someone has to step in and fix it.”

Under Minnesota law, a major party is any party that draws at least 5 percent of the vote for its candidate in a statewide race.

The Greens achieved major-party status in Minnesota in the 2000 elections when presidential candidate Ralph Nader received more than 5 percent of the vote.

Losing major-party status means a party loses access to hundreds of thousands of dollars in state campaign support, such as contribution reimbursements.

Late night

tuesday’s election returns were delayed by the Senate race’s supplemental ballots which had to be hand counted and due to a state law prohibiting precincts from releasing results for any candidate until it can release results for all candidates.

As the night drew on, candidates and party representatives tried to keep supporters excited about the election.

“It’ll be a long night – did you bring your No-Doz?” U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad of the 3rd District asked Republican supporters at the Bloomington gathering.

At the Republican Party’s post-election rally, Ron Eibensteiner, the party’s state chairman, tried to keep the mood up among supporters.

“I can feel a victory here,” he said as the crowd began to cheer.

The Independence Party gathered at the Mall of America, where Penny played acoustic guitar and sang with his band, “The Pumper, the Peddler and the Politician,” in front of hundreds of supporters.

Campaign staffers and volunteers were still nervous but optimistic as the results began to come in.