MINNEAPOLIS (AP) —Democrat Rick Nolan upset Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack on Tuesday, winning back a northeastern Minnesota House seat just two years after Cravaack claimed it in an upset. Meanwhile, Republican Michelle Bachmann was pushed to the limit by her own challenger.
The Republicans’ difficulties came despite a night in which the GOP retained its majority in the House.
Nolan, who left Congress in1981, reclaimed the seat lost in 2010 by longtime Democratic stalwart Jim Oberstar. 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. Cravaack had counted on his union past and pro-labor votes to keep the support of blue-collar voters in a socially conservative region.
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 the tea party favorite and former GOP presidential hopeful had her hands full with Graves.
She was running neck-and-neck with Democratic businessman Jim Graves for the district covering the northern and western suburbs and St. Cloud area, clinging to a lead of about 1,400 votes out of nearly 393,000 cast — about 85 percent complete.
“It’s not over by any means. All it means is that we’re in this race, OK?” Graves told supporters in St. Cloud early Wednesday. “We have a long ways to go.”
Denny Brooks, 52, a Republican maintenance worker from Blaine, said he voted for Bachmann again this year, despite Graves’ attempts to paint her as more concerned with her national image than her constituents.
“She needs to stay in Minnesota a little bit and do a little more work here at home, but I like her. She brings up subjects. People talk about her,” Brooks said.
Minnesota’s House delegation is split between four Republicans and four Democrats. Six of them easily won re-election Tuesday.
In the southern Twin Cities suburbs, Republican Rep. John Kline defeated Democrat Mike Obermueller in a tougher-than-usual race after redistricting subtracted conservatives from the 2nd District. Obermueller, a former state lawmaker, painted Kline as out of touch. The district stretches south to Zumbrota and Wabasha.
In southern Minnesota’s 1st District, Democratic Rep. Tim Walz won a fourth term against Republican Allen Quist, a former state lawmaker.
Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson kept his 7th District seat in western Minnesota, turning aside his second challenge from Republican businessman Lee Byberg.
In the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen and Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum easily won re-election.
Paulsen defeated Democrat Brian Barnes, a veteran, in the fiscally conservative western Minneapolis suburbs. Ellison beat Republican Chris Fields, a retired Marine, in a race that took on a personal tone in left-leaning Minneapolis and inner-ring suburbs. McCollum defeated Republican Tony Hernandez, a bank officer, and Steve Carlson, an Independence Party candidate with tea party ties in Democratic-friendly St. Paul and nearby suburbs.
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