Governors race a nail biter, but not in Southwest

Though the race for governor was close enough on a state level to send it to a recount, voters in Southwest and greater Hennepin County made their choice clear.

Of the roughly 3.1 million Minnesotans who cast a ballot on Election Day, 470,470 did so in Hennepin County and 237,995 (50.81 percent) of those voted for Democrat Mark Dayton.

That’s compared to 168,518 (35.98 percent) for Republican Tom Emmer and 57,116 (12.19 percent) for Independence Party candidate Tom Horner. Southwest voters also backed Dayton, giving him more than 60 percent of the vote in most precincts.

Dayton’s statewide 08,755-vote lead over Republican Tom Emmer represented less than one half of one percent, putting it within the threshold for a mandatory recount. The vote totals were 919,214 (43.63 percent) for Dayton and 910,459 (43.21 percent) for Emmer with all precincts reporting. Independence Party candidate Tom Horner was a distant third with 251,485 votes (11.94 percent).

There was at least one major glitch on Election Night. Hennepin County Elections Manager Rachel Smith said in a prepared statement that a staff person pressed a wrong button while transmitting precinct results. The mistake was quickly realized and corrected, she said.

“We want to clarify that this was not an error in counting results, but a temporary error in reporting results,” Smith said. “The error was correctly diagnosed and resolved. The unofficial results on our website are accurate.”

And even while Republican victories across the state gave that party control of the Minnesota Legislature for the first time in decades, Southwest voters chose to send long-serving DFLers back to St. Paul.

State senators Linda Berglin (DFL-61), Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-59), Ken Kelash (DFL-63) and Scott Dibble (DFL-60) all won re-election easily. So did state representatives Frank Hornstein (DFL-60B), Karen Clark (DFL-61A), Jeff Hayden (DFL-61B), Jean Wagenius (DFL-62B) and Paul Thissen (DFL-63A). DFLer Marion Greene won her first election with nearly 80 percent of the vote in House district 60A, and will take over the seat formerly occupied by Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who chose not to seek re-election after failing to win her party’s gubernatorial endorsement.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-5) faired the same in the region and beyond, handily winning a second term over Republican challenger Joel Demos.

The area’s incumbent county commissioner, Gail Dorfman (District 3) was also reelected by a wide margin over challenger Barry Lazarus.

An amendment to give the Minneapolis Charter Commission the responsibility of drawing political boundaries, such as City Council wards, passed with more than 55 percent of the vote.

Election judges at several Southwest polling sites reported strong turnout for a non-presidential election year.

Floyd Child, the chair election judge at Painter Park, said nearly 15 percent of registered voters had cast votes by 9 a.m. on Election Day.

Those who waited until the evening to vote encountered lines at several polling places, including Jefferson Community School, where voters showed up in droves just after the work day ended. By 5:15 p.m. there was a line of about 50 people down the aisle of the Jefferson auditorium.

Chair Judge Kittie Fahey said that polling place typically had high rates of same-day registration, and Election Day 2010 was no exception. At least one voter decided not to wait, a young man who left complaining out loud that the line was “just not worth it.”

At Linden Hills Park, Chair Judge Diana Kittelson said turnout was the best she’d seen in a non-presidential election in at least a decade. Roughly 1,100 voters, more than half the voters in the precinct, had cast a ballot by 4:30 p.m.

Democrat Ed Clark was one of them. He said he was concerned about the Tea Party movement that later that night helped bring Republican newcomers to power throughout the country.

“I’m very concerned about losing any of the momentum from the (President Barack) Obama election,” he said.

At Armatage Community Center, self-proclaimed “Mr. Republican” Greg Noah said he voted along party lines and chose Emmer for governor because he viewed Dayton as more of a salesman than someone fit for public office.

“Emmer seems more well rounded. More real,” Noah said.

John Gaertner, chair judge in the precinct, suspected the close governor’s race was a factor in what he saw as high turnout for a non-presidential year.  

“The governor’s race must be of some interest,” he said. “There was quite a crowd here right away in the morning and it’s been fairly steady throughout the course of the day.”