MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Democrat Rick Nolan began preparing Wednesday for a return to Congress after 32 years away, while Rep. Michele Bachmann, who barely survived her toughest race yet, said she's ready to get back to work.
Nolan, who left Congress in 1981 after serving three terms, upset one-term GOP U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack to reclaim the northeastern Minnesota seat that Democratic stalwart Jim Oberstar lost in a 2010 upset. With 99 percent of the precincts counted, Nolan had 54.5 percent of the vote.
Meanwhile, Bachmann beat Democratic hotelier Jim Graves by just over 4,200 votes in the 6th District, finally nailing down her fourth term Wednesday morning. The 6th covers the northern and western Twin Cities suburbs and the St. Cloud area.
The tea party favorite and former GOP presidential hopeful had 50.6 percent of the vote with 100 percent of precincts reporting, better than Graves' 49.4 percent.
Graves conceded Wednesday morning, issuing a statement congratulating Bachmann and thanking his supporters.
"We wish her and her family the very best. ... We remain hopeful that our country can come together and address the pressing issues before us," he said.
Bachmann called his concession phone call "gracious" in a Twitter post.
"It was a hard fought campaign and I'm ready to get back to work," she said.
The two incumbents struggled on a night that saw the GOP retain its majority in the U.S. House but stumble badly in Minnesota. Republicans lost control of the Legislature, voters rejected GOP-backed constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage and require voters to show identification, and President Barack Obama carried the state.
Nolan was gleeful as he met cheering supporters in Brainerd early Wednesday.
"I guess Yogi Berra would say it feels like deja vu all over again," he said.
Going into the race, Cravaack was considered the most vulnerable of Minnesota's House Republicans, and the race attracted national attention and millions in outside spending. The retired airline pilot had counted on his union past and pro-labor votes to keep the support of blue-collar voters in a socially conservative region.
The national parties and allies including the Democrat-supporting House Majority PAC and the GOP-backing American Action Network together spent about $9 million on the northeastern race, with about half the money going against Cravaack. The Minnesota DFL sunk more than $400,000 into bolstering Nolan's campaign, mainly by running TV and radio ads through a contested primary and into the fall. One group, Credo SuperPAC, set up shop in Duluth to organize against Cravaack.
Cravaack thanked his supporters and constituents in a concession speech in Hinckley.
"It has been a privilege — a privilege — to serve you as a public official. I've done our best in trying to ensure that the 8th District was well served, and I'm sure Congressman Nolan will do the same," he said.
Redistricting was supposed to help Bachmann, with a new political map that made the 6th even more conservative. But for the first time since she won her seat in 2006, there was no Independence Party candidate to siphon support from her main rival, and she had her hands full with Graves.
Graves was born and raised in St. Cloud in what he describes as a working-class Catholic family. He founded the nationwide AmericInn motel chain in 1979. He sold it 1993 and is now CEO of Graves Hospitality Corp, which develops and manages luxury hotels and restaurants including the flagship Graves 601 Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.
The multimillionaire stressed his business experience and his record of job creation, and accused Bachmann of being more concerned about advancing her national political aspirations than serving the district.
Minnesota's House delegation was split between four Republicans and four Democrats. Six of them easily won re-election Tuesday.
In southern Minnesota's 1st District, Democratic Rep. Tim Walz won a fourth term against Republican Allen Quist, a former state lawmaker. In the southern Twin Cities suburbs, Republican Rep. John Kline defeated Democrat Mike Obermueller in the 2nd District. Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson kept his 7th District seat in western Minnesota, turning aside Republican businessman Lee Byberg. Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen and Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum had no trouble keeping their seats in other metro area districts.
Associated Press writer Martiga Lohn in St. Paul, Minn. contributed to this report.