Dayton delays declaring victoryMark Dayton held a 4,492-vote lead over Margaret Anderson Kelliher early today, but both rejected news media projections that Dayton won Tuesday's Democratic-Farmer-Laborite primary election.
By: Don Davis/MN State Capitol Bureau, Pine Journal
ST. PAUL -- Mark Dayton held a 4,492-vote lead over Margaret Anderson Kelliher early today, but both rejected news media projections that Dayton won Tuesday's Democratic-Farmer-Laborite primary election.
If his margin holds up, as he says his campaign's analysis says it will, Dayton will face Republican Tom Emmer and Tom Horner of the Independence Party in the Nov. 2 general election.
Kelliher refused to concede at 12:40 a.m., saying that "every vote counts."
"We are not making any decisions," she told supporters in a St. Paul cafe. "We have some numbers to come in yet, but we are not making any decisions about it."
Minutes later, Dayton went in front of reporters and supporters and said: "I totally respect Speaker Kelliher's prerogative to wait until every vote is counted."
However, he the former U.S. senator added, his campaign's analysis agreed with that of The Associated Press, which declared Dayton the winner at 12:21 a.m.
With both remaining candidates holding back on declaring the race over, a planned 11 a.m. "unity rally" later this morning was in limbo.
Dayton trailed Kelliher until just before midnight, when St. Louis County and other votes were counted.
In unofficial returns at 1 a.m., Dayton had 41 percent (177,920 votes), with Kelliher showing 40 percent (173,428 votes) with 97 percent of precincts reporting.
Matt Entenza, who conceded 90 minutes after the polls closed, had 18 percent.
Dayton, a long-time state and federal official, took his first, although slim lead, with 91 percent of precincts reporting when St. Louis County votes began to pour in.
If the 4,000-vote lead would hold, it would be big enough not to need a recount. However, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said he is ready for a recount if needed.
A primary election recount two years ago took three days.
A recount is mandatory if the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent of the total vote cast in the race.
Dayton credited his running mate, Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon of Duluth, for the ticket doing well in the northeast.
Kelliher is the first woman candidate endorsed by a major party, but the two men in the race spent millions of dollars of their own money in the campaign.
Dayton, with decades in the public eye, hoped that senior citizens turned out in large numbers on a hot and sometimes rainy day to make the difference. Dayton was the leader of polls leading up to the election, in part because his family started the Dayton and Target department store chains and in part because he is a long-time public servant.
Kelliher and Entenza hoped their strategies of targeting specific potential voters would be more successful than the Dayton campaign's wooing of senior citizens.
Entenza conceded at 9:25 p.m.
"In a democracy, of course, the people speak," Entenza said.
It all boiled down to the relatively few voters who went to the polls Tuesday, fighting the heat, rain and a primary that came a month earlier than normal during busy a busy summer month. All those factors added up to a light turnout in a state that leads the country in general election voting.
The Democratic-Farmer-Laborite winner will face Emmer and Horner. Emmer faced token opposition. Only Rob Hahn mounted a serious campaign against Horner, but Horner easily won.
Emmer said he was ready to take on any DFL candidate: "It won't matter because the message is the same."
In other races, Democratic incumbent Secretary of State Ritchie beat perennial candidate Dick Franson, DFL Attorney General Lori Swanson easily sailed past challenger Leo F. Meyer and Republican attorney general candidate Chris Barden won over Sharon Anderson, who regularly runs for the office.
In U.S. House races, party-endorsed Dan Powers in the 2nd Congressional District lost in the DFL primary to Shelley Madore, who faces U.S. Rep. John Kline. In western Minnesota's 7th district GOP-endorsed Lee Byberg beat Alan Roebke for the right to face U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson.
Winners of Tuesday's primary advance to the Nov. 2 general election.
Democrats emphasize this year's governor race because they see an opening to get back into an office they last won 24 years ago. About 30 candidates jumped into the race soon after Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced he would not run for a third term.
Dayton, 63, emphasized one issue above all others: Income and property taxes need to rise for the richest Minnesotans.
While Dayton would boost income taxes on people earning $150,000 or more a year, Kelliher and Entenza set the mark at $250,000.
Dayton has been state auditor, state economic development commissioner and U.S. senator.
Kelliher had the advantage of being endorsed by the party's state convention, which brought with it manpower and lists of potential voters. She said with that, she could target potential voters without spending money to air television commercials for weeks before the election.
Kelliher, 42, is ending her second term as House speaker, capping a 12-year House career. She touted her victory over Pawlenty in raising fuel taxes to increase transportation funding.
Entenza spent more than $5 million of his own money into the primary contest, with Dayton contributing less to his campaign. Dayton spent more than $3 million.
The money already spent is more than any other governor's race in state history.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co. Marty Owings of KFAI radio contributed to this story.