Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar earned Minnesota’s first 2012 election night win when news services declared her a re-election victor soon after the polls closed.
The triumph over Republican Kurt Bills came as no surprise after she held huge leads in recent polls and one poll showed more than half of Minnesotans did know even recognize Bills’ name. Bills struggled to raise money, while Klobuchar put millions in her campaign treasury.
Some U.S. House races were expected to be close, none more so than the 8th Congressional District in the northeastern quarter of Minnesota that featured first-term GOP U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan. Television commercials about the race, both by the candidates and by outside groups, overwhelmed Twin Cities and Duluth viewers for weeks.
The Klobuchar-Bills race never appeared close.
Bills, 42, often blamed Klobuchar, 52, for lack of budget progress in Washington and said she has not been a leader. At every opportunity, he said the country faces a “fiscal cliff” at the end of this year because Congress has not approved a budget. He predicted a fiscal calamity if a budget does not pass.
Klobuchar, however, said she was one of the senators who insisted on a debt commission that eventually laid groundwork for the Budget Control Act. She said that law is a framework for a budget, which she said needs to be a combination of budget cuts and raising taxes on rich Americans.
The first term Democratic senator often is mentioned as a potential presidential candidate.
Senators and representatives make $174,000 a year. Senators serve six years, House members two years.
Here is a look at U.S. House races across Minnesota:
— In the 1st Congressional District, which spans southern Minnesota, Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz faced longtime Republican activist Allen Quist. Walz, a teacher and coach, has served in the House since 2007. Quist, a retired political science professor, was a state lawmaker in the 1980s.
— Republican John Kline, the highest-ranking Minnesota congressman as chairman of the House education and labor committee, was challenged by Democrat Mike Obermueller in the 2nd Congressional District, just south of Minneapolis and St. Paul. He served one term in the state House before losing in his second election.
— Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, a former state House majority leader before heading to Congress in 2009, battled Democrat Brian Barnes, a business manager and a Navy Reserve veteran, in the western Twin Cities’ 3rd Congressional District.
— Democratic U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum faced Republican Tony Hernandez in the eastern Twin Cities’ 4th Congressional District. She served in the state House before being elected to Congress in 2000; Hernandez worked for a bank.
— Congress’ first Muslim, Democrat Keith Ellison, was in a sometimes-heated battle with Republican Chris Fields. Ellison has been congressman since 2007, following service in the state House. Fields is a South Bronx native who served 21 years as a Marine.
— U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann returned to Minnesota after failing in the Republican presidential race and faced Democrat Jim Graves, who earned his fortune in the hotel business. Bachmann was a state senator before going to the U.S. House in 2007.
— U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee and in Congress since 1991, faced Republican Lee Byberg for the second election in a row. Byberg is a Willmar businessman raised in Brazil, Paraguay and Norway by Christian missionary parents. The Independence Party’s Adam Steele of Bemidji also was in the race.
— The most heated U.S. House race pitted first-term Rep. Chip Cravaack, a Republican, and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan in the 8th Congressional District. Cravaack surprised many in politics two years ago by beating longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar. Nolan served in Congress more than 30 years ago.
Free-lance writers Andrew Tellijohn and Martin Owings contributed to this story.