Gov. Tim Pawlenty eked out a narrow reelection victory over DFL Attorney General Mike Hatch early this morning, and Hatch conceded the election at 10 a.m. today.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty eked out a narrow reelection victory over DFL Attorney General Mike Hatch early this morning, and Hatch conceded the election at 10 a.m. today. It was a climactic finale to one of the closest, hardest-fought gubernatorial contests in memory. Pawlenty was leading by about one percentage point when the Star Tribune declared him the winner about 2 a.m.
Hatch thanked all of his supporters and said the common goal is to make a better Minnesota. He says he assumes he will return to private practice as a lawyer.
Hatch said it's too early to speculate the reasons for his defeat in the close race.
As one of the few statewide Republican victors in a Democratic state in the midst of an overwhelming Democratic tide, Pawlenty may have enhanced his national image as an up-and-coming star with a future in national office.
Noting Republican losses elsewhere and the fact that he will have to deal with both a DFL House and Senate, Pawlenty said about 3 a.m. that it was "a time tonight to be humble and time to be grateful."
He promised that "the next four years are going to be different than the last four years" and that he would build "a common agenda" with DFLers who swept legislative and constitutional offices.
Pawlenty was behind in most polls and no better than even throughout the month of October and in the final week of the campaign. Hatch was ahead through about the first three hours of vote-counting.
Pawlenty won by piling up big margins in suburban counties as well as in central and southern Minnesota regions anchored by St. Cloud and Rochester.
Hatch was running ahead in Minneapolis, St. Paul and their inner-ring suburbs. He had big margins in the DFL strongholds around Duluth and the Iron Range.
Opinion polling in the last week of an expensive, sometimes bitter campaign showed Pawlenty gaining on Hatch. Exit polls of voters as they left their polling places also showed the race within one percentage point.
Pawlenty's reelection means that Republicans will have control of the state government's executive branch for 16 out of 20 years, from 1990 through 2010. Republican Arne Carlson served two terms after being elected in 1990; Gov. Jesse Ventura of the Independence Party was elected in 1998 and served one term. Hatch fell short in his attempt to be the first DFL gubernatorial win since 1986.
Trailing a distant third was the Independence Party's Peter Hutchinson, who appeared headed for the lowest IP gubernatorial total.
At the IP celebration at the Hyatt in downtown Minneapolis, Hutchinson said he "proved a wonk could get people to laugh out loud and get all the yuks at the debates."We made promises that were fiscally responsible and that's never been done before. And we put together a team of statewide candidates that ran together and that's something we've never seen before."
He offered this rationale for his poor showing: "Jesse [Ventura] was bigger than life with 100 percent name ID, and Tim Penny [the 2002 IP candidate] had built a strong base as a Democrat in Congress from a Republican district. We didn't have either of those things going for us."
Themes and issues
As the incumbent, Pawlenty throughout his campaign tried to convince voters that he'd led the state through hard times, balancing record budget deficits without raising major state tax rates, without diminishing the state's "nation-leading" status on most socio-economic indicators.