MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota voters reinforced the state's liberal reputation as President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar easily won in the state, former U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan knocked off a freshman Republican, and Democrats seized control of the state Legislature.
Voters also rejected two proposed amendments to Minnesota's Constitution, to ban gay marriage and to require voters to show identification at the polls, that were strongly backed by conservatives. Both amendments had fueled a barrage of TV ads and overshadowed candidates for statewide office.
"This conversation doesn't end tonight. It's only just begun," said Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Minnesotans United for All Families, which opposed the gay marriage ban. "Because we beat this amendment, Minnesota is in a position to ensure that the next generation can participate in the conversation about who can participate in marriage."
Nolan, who served in the U.S. House from 1975 to 1981, upset first-term GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack to win back a House seat long held by Democrats. Cravaack, who had beaten veteran Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar in 2010, conceded defeat early Wednesday.
"I guess Yogi Berra would say it feels like deja vu all over again," Nolan told cheering supporters in Brainerd. His win gave Democrats a 5-3 margin in Minnesota's U.S. House delegation, which had been tied 4-4.
Minnesota's other close U.S. House race was a squeaker for Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, who vastly outspent Democratic businessman Jim Graves and enjoyed a district made more conservative by redistricting. Bachmann, who was facing a single opponent for the first time, wasn't confirmed in her fourth term until shortly before dawn.
Republicans conceded control of the Minnesota House and Senate after holding both chambers at the same time for only two years. That returns control of the full Legislature to Democrats and gives Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton a free hand to push legislation to increase taxes on the wealthy after Republican opposition led to a government shutdown last year.
Obama captured Minnesota's 10 electoral votes on his way to a second term and kept alive the state's long streak of backing Democrats for president. Despite a late poll suggesting the presidential race in Minnesota was tightening, the state's voters chose Obama over GOP challenger Mitt Romney. No Republican has taken Minnesota since Richard Nixon in 1972.
Klobuchar hammered Republican challenger Kurt Bills in a race called soon after the polls closed. Klobuchar had big advantages in name ID and money while Bills, a first-term state legislator, struggled for attention, money and voter support.