Minnesota vote could depend on national wave

The question of whether a predicted Republican wave would touch Minnesota’s shores was key in Tuesday’s election.

If the wave arrived, Republicans hoped to dislodge a couple Democratic congressmen, make gains in the state Legislature and snare three statewide offices that now are Democratic-Farmer-Laborite.

Dissatisfaction with Democrat President Barack Obama was expected to help Republicans running for Congress, but the coattails also could stretch into state races.

To counter the GOP wave, Obama’s political organization worked to get those who voted for him two years ago to vote again this year. At mid-day Tuesday, an e-mail from the group asked supporters to take 20 minutes to call potential voters to encourage them to go to the polls.

While legislative races received little statewide attention, who controls the House and Senate can be almost as important as who wins the governor’s race.

The state Senate long has been a DFL bastion, but the House has been under DFL control for just four years. Few predicted a GOP takeover, but even Democrats admitted they could lose seats in both houses.

Democrats now lead the Senate 46-21 with 34 needed to hold control. In the House, it is the DFL 87, GOP 47, with 68 as the majority.

Of three non-governor statewide races, one stood out as the most competitive and combative: Republican Pat Anderson trying to regain the state auditor’s office from Democrat Rebecca Otto, who won it four years ago.

Otto accused Anderson of making mathematical mistakes when she was auditor. Anderson said Otto was too chummy with local government officials she was supposed to audit.

In the secretary of state race, incumbent Democrat Mark Ritchie reminded voters that his handling of the controversial 2008 U.S. Senate race gained widespread praise. Republican opponent Rep. Dan Severson said Ritchie made lots of mistakes two years ago and that requiring Minnesotans to show a photo identification card before voting would reduce voter fraud.

Incumbent Democrat Attorney General Lori Swanson did little campaigning. Republican Chris Barden accused Swanson of running a disorganized and scandal-ridden office. Swanson emphasized her work to protect consumers while Barden centered his campaign on suing to get rid of the new federal health-care reform bill.

Three U.S. House races drew the most attention in federal contests.

In the northeast’s 8th Congressional District, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, in Congress since 1975, faced what many described as his strongest opponent in Republican Chip Cravaack.

Across the southern counties, Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz and Republican state Rep. Randy Demmer fought in the 1st Congressional District.

The most expensive House race in the country was in the 6th Congressional District, which stretches across the northern Twin Cities to St. Cloud. Republican Michele Bachmann was favored to retain her seat despite Democratic State Sen. Tarryl Clark’s efforts.

Other U.S. House incumbents were expected to head back to Washington: Democrat Collin Peterson in the west, Republican John Kline south of the Twin Cities and Republican Erik Paulsen, Democrat Keith Ellison and Democrat Betty McCollum in the Twin Cities.

Also on the ballot were some statewide judicial races that took on political overtones after the Republican Party endorsed opponents to sitting Supreme Court justices.

Well-known Justice Alan Page, a former Vikings football star, faced Tim Tingelstad of Bemidji. And Justice Helen Meyer was challenged by Greg Wersel, who has fought all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court to allow political parties access to judicial campaigns.

On the state Appeals Court, incumbent Judge Louise Dovre Bjorkman faced Roxann Klugman.

Turnout was reported spotty around Minnesota. Ritchie earlier said that hot local races in some counties would drive up turnout there.

Republicans complained that too many vote scanning machines broke down Tuesday, and a party attorney’s letter to Ritchie laid the groundwork for possible legal action if the GOP decided that is needed after the election.

The secretary of state’s office said there were few voting machine problems, and ones that did crop up were fixed quickly.

The conservative group Election Integrity Watch and the Republican Party were engaged in separate efforts to closely monitor Tuesday’s election to avoid what they called voter fraud. Many Republicans feel U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman lost his 2008 re-election bid to Democrat Al Franken over voting problems.

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