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Minnesota voters have elected Mark Dayton to a second term as governor, according to the projections of several news outlets.
WCCO notes the outcome was a contrast to Dayton's 2010 race against Republican Tom Emmer, in which the results were close enough to require a recount.
Not since Rudy Perpich defeated Cal Ludeman had Minnesotans returned a sitting DFL governor to office.
The official tally from the Secretary of State's office showed Dayton with an 11 percent lead over Republican challenger Jeff Johnson at 10 p.m. with 40 percent of the ballots counted, the Star Tribune reported.
Less than an hour later, Johnson called Dayton to concede and took to the stage at the Minnesota Republican Party's event in Minneapolis to thank supporters.
When Gov. Dayton addressed supporters, he called on Minnesotans to come together to work for the betterment of the state.
Hannah Nicollet of the Independence Party trailed much farther behind. If she fails to claim 5 percent of the ballots cast, the party would lose major-party status under Minnesota law.
Forum News Service notes Dayton's victory caps a career in public service that's lasted nearly 40 years. It's also his first re-election. Dayton had previously served single terms in the U.S. Senate and as State Auditor without seeking re-election. He has said the 2014 race would be his last political campaign.
Polls, finances showed race tightening
Political polling in the governor's race consistently showed Dayton ahead, but the very last poll of the campaign showed Dayton's lead at its smallest. The KSTP/Survey USA poll released Sunday put Dayton's lead at 5 percent over Johnson – 47 percent to 42 percent. That 5 percent lead compared to a 12 percent advantage for Dayton a month earlier.
Fundraising reports showed a similar trajectory. For most of the campaign, Dayton held a financial lead over Johnson, who emerged from a four-way Republican primary in August. But as the Star Tribune reported, the final numbers showed Dayton raised a little over $2 million, while Johnson was close behind at $1.96 million.
Economy, education, Ebola
During the campaign Dayton touted his first-term accomplishments and Johnson argued for a change in direction but neither was particularly specific about what they'd do in the next few years, MPR notes.
For Dayton (right) that meant pointing to a balanced budget, achieved largely by raising income taxes on the highest-earning Minnesotans; legalizing same sex marriage; and raising the minimum wage. For Johnson that meant calls for spending cuts and for seeking a federal waiver from the Affordable Care Act – a prospect MPR says Washington seems unlikely to approve.
As for the most important issue facing the governor, Johnson and Dayton both told the AP last month it is the economy and creating the conditions for a new generation of Minnesotans to find economic success.
They diverged, though, on how a governor should create those conditions. Dayton told the Pioneer Press investments in education are the key to job growth, while Johnson (left) emphasized cutting taxes and business regulations.
In the campaign's final full day the Ebola virus emerged as a hot-button issue. Minnesota's Republican Party released a radio ad Monday maintaining Dayton has left the state unprepared for the virus. Dayton called the ad untrue and said it represented fear tactics that had taken the GOP "from the garbage can into the sewer."
Johnson distanced himself from the ad's production, the AP said, but said it's fair to raise questions about Dayton's competence.