Senator-elect Coleman vows to make Minnesota proud

by Libby George

The three tiers at the Capitol Rotunda in St. Paul overflowed with supporters Wednesday afternoon – all cheering for newly elected Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.

“I’m humbled by the votes I received yesterday,” Coleman said. “Whether you were carrying a Mondale sign, a Wellstone sign or a Coleman sign, I will be dedicated to making all proud in the state of Minnesota.”

The race against former Vice President Walter Mondale was so close that both candidates left their campaign parties at approximately three this morning without knowing who won the race.

“I woke up to a call from my staff saying, ‘Hey, you’ve been declared the winner,’ ” Coleman said.

According to the secretary of state’s Web site, Coleman received 49.6 percent, or 1.07 million votes, to Mondale’s 47.1 percent, roughly one million votes, a difference of 53,065 with 99.68 percent of precincts reporting Wednesday evening.

The race was called at approximately 5 a.m. Wednesday morning, and Mondale called Coleman at approximately 8 a.m. to concede.

“He was extraordinarily gracious,” Coleman said of Mondale. “He is the elder statesman in Minnesota.”

Mondale, who previously had never lost a statewide race in Minnesota, thanked Minnesotans in his concession speech at the Radisson Hotel in St. Paul.

“At the end of what will be my last campaign, I want to say to Minnesota – you always treated me well,” Mondale said.

Coleman told the crowd Mondale offered support in his concession.

“When he called this morning, he told me Minnesotans will fight for the political contest in Minnesota, but when it’s said and done, we’ll come together,” he said.

Coleman said his victory reflected public confidence in his ability to create jobs and strong national security.

“Folks in Minnesota were looking for a certain kind of politics,” Coleman said.

Republican wave

the win mimicked races across the country, where the Republican Party won control of the Senate and strengthened their control in the House.

Republicans gained two seats in the Senate, an assured total of 51 seats. Democrats had 48, including one independent. In Louisiana, where Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu will face Republican Suzanne Haik Terrell in a December runoff, control is still undetermined.

Political scientists and analysts predict the Republican victories will assist President George W. Bush in passing legislation.

“It is an important victory for the Republicans,” University political science professor Bill Flanigan said. “It’s not so easy to work in the Senate with a narrow margin.”

He added that Democrats face a challenge, but it’s not impossible for them to be effective in Washington.

“It will be possible for the Democrats – if they are cohesive – to block the action the Republicans want to take,” Flanigan said. “(Democrats) can prevent action if they are determined.”

In the House, Republicans gained four seats, winning 227, and they led the race for one more, which hadn’t been called as of press time Wednesday. Democrats won 203 and led in three races. One independent won a seat in the House.

Statewide support

minnesota Republican Party Chairman Ron Eibensteiner said Coleman would have prevailed in Minnesota with or without the national trend.

“I think we would have been successful here in Minnesota even if it wasn’t as successful nationally,” he said.

Eibensteiner attributed Coleman’s victory to voter turnout – an off-year record of 73.5 percent – and to definitive issues pushed by the candidates.

“When I heard yesterday afternoon that turnout was sky-high, I was happy,” Eibensteiner said. “For the first time in a long, long time, we had candidates who could articulate their views. That helped all the way down the ticket.”

Coleman said support he has received from President Bush will help him push Minnesota issues.

“The president has visited and has an interest in Minnesota, and I intend to use that for the future of Minnesota,” Coleman said.

“The battle has been fought, and now it’s over, and I think Minnesotans understand the importance of coming together and healing wounds,” he said.

Coleman added that he will try to join the Agriculture Committee in the Senate and will focus on job creation, quality health care and education and homeland security.

Libby George covers national politics and welcomes comments at [email protected]