MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan upset freshman GOP Rep. Chip Cravaack to win back a U.S. House seat long held by Democrats in northeastern Minnesota. Two divisive constitutional amendments — to ban gay marriage and require voters to show identification in Minnesota — both went down to defeat.
President Barack Obama and Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar cruised to early victories Tuesday in Minnesota while, in a stunning sweep, Democrats recaptured control of the Minnesota Legislature.
Republicans conceded control of the state 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.
Nolan, who served in the U.S. House from 1975 to 1981, beat Cravaack in an expensive race that gained national attention. Cravaack, who had beaten longtime Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar in 2010, conceded defeat early Wednesday.
Minnesota's remaining U.S. House race remained too close to call. Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, a prodigious fundraiser who raised her national profile with a brief run for president, narrowly led Democratic businessman Jim Graves in her bid for a fourth term.
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.
Economic worries outpaced health care reform, foreign policy and the federal budget deficit as Minnesota voters' main concern, according to an exit poll conducted for The Associated Press. About six in 10 Minnesota voters said the economy is the most important issue facing the country — three times more than any other issue.