U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, the four-term congressman from Eden Prairie, handily won re-election, beating his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Terri Bonoff, by a double-digit margin.
The Republican congressman successfully fended off Bonoff, who waged an aggressive campaign highlighting Paulsen's conservative voting record on abortion rights, climate change and gun control that she said is out of sync with the moderate district. Bonoff and outside Democratic groups tried all summer to tie Paulsen to his party's nominee for president, Donald Trump.
The mood was jovial among Republicans gathered at the Radisson Blu at the Mall of America, site of the Minnesota Republican Party's election night party. Many sipped cocktails as results trickled in, stopping to cheer when Fox News, shown on two large screens, called states for Trump.
Paulsen, 51, addressed supporters shortly after 10 p.m. and began by thanking his family and those who worked on his campaign. He then went on to address the tone of the night, alluding to Trump's lead in early projections.
"Voters are speaking loudly. They are speaking clearly. ... They want to see some things get done," Paulsen said. "And now it is time to roll up our sleeves and get back to Washington."
Bonoff, 59, and her supporters, meanwhile, gathered at the DoubleTree Bloomington for a campaign party separate from one hosted by the Minnesota DFL. They anxiously awaited results after days of pounding the pavement and working the phones. Bonoff was first elected to represent Minnetonka in the Minnesota Senate in 2005.
Supporters grew increasingly dejected as election results trickled in showing Paulsen far ahead and showing Trump outperforming polls and locking up key battleground states.
Bonoff conceded the race in a phone call to Paulsen shortly after 10 p.m.
"I know we may not have the result we wanted, but I'm incredibly proud of everything we've done," said Bonoff, who stepped up on a stool behind a podium to thank supporters. "I talked to Erik and congratulated him on a strong campaign. It was a hard, hard election. Now we have the responsibility to come together."
The two candidates were locked in a competitive race as they vied to represent the Third Congressional District's western Twin Cities suburbs that include Maple Grove, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Bloomington. Democrats nationally saw an opportunity to flip the district shortly after it became clear that Trump would become the GOP presidential nominee.
Democrats hoped Trump's unpopularity with well-educated, affluent voters, like many in the Third District, would hurt down-ticket Republicans such as Paulsen.
While the district leans Republican, its voters have a tendency to split their ballots. Voters here backed President Obama in 2008 and in 2012, but voted for Paulsen and other down-ticket Republicans during those election cycles.
Underscoring the national interest in the race, outside groups spent $5.8 million, the bulk of which included $3.2 million spent by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in opposition to Paulsen, according to federal campaign-finance data compiled by ProPublica. Republican outside groups, the National Republican Congressional Committee and House Majority PAC, spent a combined $1.7 million on the race.
While she got a late start, Bonoff raised more than $1.6 million during the election cycle and had about $215,000 cash on hand, according to the latest campaign-finance disclosures compiled by ProPublica. Paulsen, who sits on the powerful House and Ways Committee, easily eclipsed Bonoff's fundraising totals. Paulsen had $1.6 million cash on hand and raised more than $4.5 million for his race.