DFLer Kevin Dahle won the special election for a state Senate seat Thursday night, beating former Republican state Rep. Ray Cox of Northfield. The victory gives DFLers the two-thirds majority they need to override a veto by the governor.

Dahle will replace Sen. Tom Neuville, R-Northfield, who stepped down after Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed him to the bench last fall. His resignation took effect Tuesday, and he will be sworn in as a Rice County judge next week.

Dahle had 55 percent of the votes to Cox's 42 percent.

Cox said late Thursday: "Northfield came out big-time. They had a huge student vote, and huge same-day registration. Al Franken and Tim Walz were down here. They worked their plan, and it worked. Northfield is brutal on a fiscal conservative."

Dahle could not be reached for comment.

A political analyst said before the special election that the short campaign period would likely put Dahle and Independence Party candidate Vance Norgaard -- relative unknowns on the political stage -- at a disadvantage against Cox, who served two terms in the state House, 15 years on the Northfield school board and five years on the city planning commission.

Dahle is a teacher at Northfield High School and president of the local teachers' union, while Norgaard is a businessman and organic farmer.

Cox, owner of Northfield Construction Co., lost his House seat in 2006 to David Bly, DFL-Northfield, in a razor-thin vote.

slemagie@startribune.com • 612-673-7557 mlsmith@startribune.come • 612-673-4788