The contest was marked by remarkably negative ad campaigns by both sides, fueled by national funds.
Republican State Sen. Michele Bachmann won the open U.S. House seat in the Sixth District, defeating child-safety advocate Patty Wetterling in a race that drew national attention, set a Minnesota record for spending on a House race, and generated a double barrage of nasty TV ads and fliers.
Bachmann slowly but steadily built a significant lead all Tuesday evening, and shortly after 11 p.m., Wetterling called her to concede.
Bachmann then went to the podium at GOP election night headquarters in Bloomington to claim victory and thank her family and supporters and list her top priorities: "We want to secure our nation's borders, protect our country, and can anyone say, 'Cut taxes?' We also want to protect our great Minnesota family values, life, marriage and family life."
Wetterling simultaneously thanked her team at a smaller gathering in St. Cloud, acknowledging that her second race for the seat had fallen short. "Because we stood up for what we believed in, we did win," Wetterling said.
The last published polls before Tuesday had shown Bachmann with a lead, but going into Election Day the national pundits mostly rated the race a tossup.
Independence Party candidate John Binkowski ran a distant third.
In the final hours, both campaigns complained about automatically dialed phone calls that allegedly harrassed or misled Sixth District voters.
The Sixth Congressional District drapes across the top of the Twin Cities metro, stretching from the Wisconsin border to St. Cloud and including suburbs, exurbs, farmland and St. Cloud.
The district includes most or all of Anoka, Washington, Stearns, Wright, Sherburne and Benton counties.
Bachmann built an insurmountable lead in Anoka County, where she had spent part of her childhood. Wetterling appeared to be carrying Washington County, which is Bachmann's current home base.
The Sixth has a conservative lean, which has translated into Republican domination since the district was created after the 2000 census.
In 2004, President Bush whomped Democrat John Kerry in the Sixth 57-42 percent, making it Bush's strongest district in Minnesota. Republican state legislators from the district outnumber DFLers about 2-1.
Since the Sixth was reconfigured, it has twice elected Republican Mark Kennedy. He won there in 2002, by 57-35 over Democrat Janet Robert, and by 54-46 in 2004 over Wetterling in her first campaign.
Democratic hopes this year were pinned on three factors:
The seat was open because of Kennedy's decision to run for the Senate;
Wetterling brought significant name recognition and a reservoir of public sympathy from the 1989 kidnapping of her son, Jacob;
The national political climate gave Democrats hopes in districts normally considered safe for the GOP.