Minnesota Democrats win re-election despite overwhelming GOP gains nationwide
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Minnesota U.S. Sen. Al Franken sailed to an easy re-election victory over Republican challengers, Nov. 4, upsetting the national trend of voters who favored Republican officials.
Thirty-two states elected a Republican Governor on Tuesday, including three traditionally Democratic states – Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts. Minnesota joined the 16 other states in electing a Democrat Governor.
Dayton consistently led his Republican opponent Jeff Johnson as each precinct reported, ending the election night with 50 percent of the vote, compared to the 44 percent Johnson received. While Dayton finishes his first term with a Democratic majority in the Minnesota House and Senate, he will face a newly elected Republican majority in the House.
“I believe we all want what’s best for Minnesota. We just disagree on the details,” Dayton said in his victory speech at a Minneapolis hotel, as reported by the Star Tribune. Dayton admitted he would be “as conciliatory as possible” with the GOP controlled house during his second term, but said that it remains to be seen “whether [Republican leaders are] willing to assume the mantle of leadership” and would compromise, or whether they will “jam everything up.”
Franken will also face a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, after the GOP gained seven previously DFL seats. Franken easily won re-election with a resounding 53 percent of the vote, compared to the 42 percent his opponent Mike McFadden received.
“I hope that we can get things done,” Franken said at a down- town Minneapolis election party, as reported by the Star Tribune. “There are lots of things that we have to work on that really shouldn’t be partisan.”
Six years ago, Franken’s election to the Senate came down to 312 votes separating him from former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman, forcing a recount lasting eight months. “I am so honored and so humbled and so grateful to the people of Minnesota,” Franken told the cheering crowd at his election party. “Thank you for taking a chance on me six years ago. And thank you for giving me the chance to keep working for you in Washington.”
Minnesota U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison also won re-election for a fifth term in Congress, representing Minnesota’s 5th District. Ellison received 70 percent of the vote, defeating Republican candidate Doug Daggett who received 23 percent of the vote. Across the nation, however, the DFL lost 15 seats to the GOP in the U.S. House, increasing the GOP’s strong majority to 243 seats.
DFL State Rep. Steve Simon was elected the Minnesota Secretary of State with 47 percent of the vote, besting Republican candidate Dan Severson who received 45 percent of the vote. Simon’s win keeps the Secretary of State position firmly in Democratic control, after former Secretary of State Mark Ritchie decided not to run for re-election.
Despite high early predictions, only 50 percent of registered Minnesotans voted – down six percent from four years ago. Those who did vote, however, “expressed significant discontent with the government,” as 34 percent of voters revealed they were voting in opposition of President Obama, while 61 percent of voters said they were dissatisfied with the Republican leaders in Congress, as reported by an ABC News national exit poll.
Nevertheless, the mid-term elections had many historic firsts, as minorities gained further recognition in Congress.
South Carolina’s Tim Scott became the first African-American senator to win election in the South since the Reconstruction era of 1872. Utah’s Mia Love became the first female African-American Republican to ever win a seat in Congress (she will serve in the House). Scott and Love will be the only two Republican African-Americans in Congress.
New York’s Elise Stefanik, 30, became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress (the record was previously held by fellow New Yorker, Elizabeth Holtzman, who was elected to Congress at age 31 in 1973). Stefanik also became the first Republican to win New York’s open district 56-32 since 1993, defeating Democrat opponent Aaron Woolf.
Arkansas’s Tom Cotton also became the first Iraq War veteran elected to Congress, defeating DFL Sen. Mark Pryor in his bid for re-election.