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Continued: Dayton says jobs, economy are top priorities

  • Article by: DENNIS J. MCGRATH , Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 8, 2010 - 4:28 PM

Gov.-elect Mark Dayton praised Republican Tom Emmer for his "gracious" decision to concede the governor's race, and said his first priority now will be to improve the economy and add jobs.

Speaking at a State Capitol news conference two hours after he was officially certified as the winner, Dayton said Emmer conducted himself honorably by ensuring that the razor-thin election results were reviewed for accuracy, but not unnecessarily prolonging the close election.

"That is a profoundly important legacy of your campaign, Rep. Emmer," Dayton said.

Emmer conceded the governor's race to Dayton earlier Wednesday, bringing an end to the disputed election and clearing the way for Dayton to take office on Jan. 3.

Emmer also waived his right to a recount, and the state Canvassing Board quickly certified the original Election Night results. The board signed the election certificate shortly after noon, making Dayton the governor-elect.

Those actions complete a stunning resurrection for Dayton, a one-term U.S. senator, who now will become the first Democratic governor in Minnesota in two decades.

The final certified result maintained Dayton's 8,770-vote victory margin on Election Night. But if the board members had chosen to certify the recount totals, the final result would have been Dayton, 919,691 votes, Emmer, 910,611 -- a margin of 9,080 votes out of 2.1 million votes cast.

Noting that voters elected a Republican legislature and a Democratic governor, Dayton said the "collective wisdom of the electorate" is that they want elements of everybody's ideas for solving the challenges the state faces.

Dayton said that success will require "good will, hard work and sincere willingness to" cooperate.

"If we simply disregard and defeat each other's proposals" with the intention of making the other side look bad, "we will only cause unwanted gridlock and deadlock," Dayton said.

But he also laid down a marker to Republicans, saying he will "continue to insist those local and state tax dollars be collected progressively."

He said he would work with the business sector, which largely opposed his candidacy, to improve the state's economy and job opportunities.

Dayton said Emmer contacted him about 20 minutes before he publicly conceded and that Emmer was very gracious.

"It takes integrity and character to make the telephone call that each of them has made," he said, referring to Emmer and Independence Party candidate Tom Horner, who conceded on Election Night.

Dayton said he hopes to go to Delano to have lunch with Emmer.

Regarding the recount, the second in so many years, Dayton said: "Minnesota shows the nation that this is how you do it right."

Earlier this morning, Emmer acknowledged what had become increasingly clear as the recount proceeded: Dayton's election-night lead would hold up.

"Minnesotans made their choice, by however thin a margin, and we respect that choice," Emmer said, with his family around him on the front steps of his Delano home.

Acknowledging that he could not overtake Dayton in the recount, Emmer said that some supporters had urged him to bring a court challenge, which likely would have delayed the winner from taking office on Jan. 3.

"I disagree," he said. "I do not believe a delay in seating the next governor will unite us or move our state forward."

Emmer said Minnesotans must have confidence in the election system, whether they are pleased with the outcome or not.

Sounding upbeat and congratulating Dayton, Emmer said that "one regret we should all have is that this state will not get to experience Jacquie [Emmer] as first lady." On that point, he added, he thought even Dayton would agree.

"There is no crying in politics," Emmer said, as his red-eyed daughter stood beside him.

At a news conference on a different topic earlier Wednesday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty was asked about Emmer. Pawlenty didn't address word of Emmer's concession, but said: "I think he's been realistic about this process."

Pawlenty said he always had assumed that the recount would be resolved in time to seat a new governor on Jan. 3, and that "we've been preparing with that in mind."

Dayton arrived at his office at about 9:45 a.m. Wednesday for a meeting with his transition team to go over their plans for the next several days.

Dayton said they are at the "very beginning stage of some of the interviews with leading candidates for commissioners." They have not made any final decisions, however.

At that time, Dayton said he had not yet heard from Emmer. But he said first lady Mary Pawlenty had invited him and his sons to tour the governor's residence in St. Paul on Thursday.

Dayton has not been in the governor's residence in 20 years, since the Perpich administration.

Dayton has led the long-running race since all the ballots were counted and through the recount.

Emmer's team Tuesday withdrew the bulk of their ballot challenges, making it clear there was no way for him to win the recount. He also was faced with a Supreme Court decision that tossed aside the foundation of an issue he said could become a possible election lawsuit.

Meanwhile, several supporters have also said they saw no way for him to win and Minnesota Business Partnership executive director Charlie Weaver even wrote a letter to the editor to appear Wednesday congratulating Dayton on his win.

On Wednesday morning, the state Canvassing Board convened at 9 a.m., as scheduled, to begin ruling on disputed ballots. But with Emmer's concession at 10:30 a.m., looming, the board adjourned after about a minute, to resume at 11 a.m.

While Dayton has had one eye on the recount during the past month, he has also been working on his transition plan so he could be ready should be become governor. He has said he would be able to start naming commissioners as soon as next week - starting with his Management and Budget commissioner and his Revenue commissioner.

Dayton will inherit a $6.2 billion budget deficit and a newly-elected Republican Legislature unfriendly to his plan to increase taxes on wealthy Minnesotans.

By taking office on time on Jan. 3, Dayton will be able to sign an executive order opting in for the state to receive federal health care money, something Gov. Tim Pawlenty opposed.

Staff writers Rachel E. Stassen-Berger, Bob Von Sternberg and Eric Roper contributed to this report.

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