Update: Wave threatens Oberstar, helps Kline

A national Republican wave washed two Minnesota congressmen out of their committee chairmanships and one of them was facing even higher water that threatened his Washington job.

As it became obvious that Republicans would take control of the U.S. House, U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson knew that meant he no longer would lead the House Agriculture Committee and Jim Oberstar understood he was out as Transportation Committee chairman even as his re-election remained in doubt.

While Democrats Peterson and Oberstar are gone as chairmen, Republican John Kline, who serves an area south of the Twin Cities, likely will lead the education committee. He will begin his fifth two-year term in January after handily beating Democrat Shelley Madore.

Oberstar was the only Minnesota congressman facing a tight contest. He trailed Chip Cravaack by a little more than a percentage point with 75 percent of votes counted early today. In the northeast’s 8th Congressional District, Oberstar, in Congress since 1975, faced his strongest-ever opponent in Republican Cravaack.

Peterson won his 11th term by beating Republican Lee Byberg, holding a 55 percent to 38 percent lead with most of the 8th Congressional District’s western Minnesota precincts reporting.

Across the southern counties, Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz beat Republican state Rep. Randy Demmer. He led by 5 points with most votes in.

The most expensive House race in the country was in the 6th Congressional District, which stretches across the northern Twin Cities to St. Cloud and was won by Republican Michele Bachmann over Democratic State Sen. Tarryl Clark. She led by 13 points with most precincts counted.

“This is a very humbling moment,” Bachmann said as she accepted victory, adding thanks for people “having faith in the founding principles of this country.”

U.S. House incumbents from the Twin Cities won easily Tuesday: Republican Erik Paulsen, Democrat Keith Ellison and Democrat Betty McCollum.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she will work with the new GOP-controlled House.

“We’re going to see a different makeup in Washington, D.C.,” she said. “We will say to our new colleagues ‘courage is not standing alone by yourself, courage is standing with people you don’t always agree with and getting stuff done for the country.’”

Republicans hoped the wave would stretch into the state Legislature and help them 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 did not stretch into most state races.

Incumbent Democrats won the three non-governor statewide races, each with about 50 percent of the votes.

Of the three races, the most combative was 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 won election to a second term, reminding 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, but won big. Republican Chris Barden accused Swanson of running a disorganized and scandal-ridden office.

“The mission of my administration the next four years will be the same as it has been the last four years and that’s to make sure ordinary everyday Minnesotans have a friend and an ally in the attorney general’s office,” Swanson said in her victory speech.

Well-known Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, a former Vikings football star, beat Tim Tingelstad of Bemidji for the second time. And Justice Helen Meyer held off Greg Wersel, who has fought all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court to allow political parties access to judicial campaigns.

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Andrew Tellijohn and Martin Owings contributed to this story.

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