- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Democrats captured the nation’s last contested gubernatorial and House races Wednesday, a small consolation prize in a year of major Republican gains.

In Minnesota, former Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton completed a remarkable comeback as Republican challenger Tom Emmer conceded the governor’s race, which had appeared headed for a recount. Mr. Dayton eked out a narrow win despite a strong GOP surge in what once was one of the country’s most reliably liberal states.

And on New York’s Long Island, Democratic incumbent Rep. Timothy H. Bishop held on for a 263-vote win over Republican challenger Randy Altschuler in the state’s 1st Congressional District.

With the last results, the GOP House wave of the 2010 midterms officially crested with a 63-seat gain, giving the party a 242-193 majority in the next Congress. Republicans also posted a final net gain of six in the governors’ races, with the tally now 29 GOP governors, 20 Democrats, and independent Gov.-elect Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island.

The results mean that only one major election from the Nov. 2 vote remains undecided — the Alaska Senate contest in which incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski is trying to win a write-in campaign over Joe Miller, the “tea party”-backed lawyer who upset her in the state’s Republican primary.

The end of the Minnesota recount means that Mr. Dayton, 63, returns to public office after leaving the Senate in 2006 following a single term. After he’s sworn in on Jan. 3, the department-store-fortune heir faces a looming $6.2 billion deficit and a Republican-controlled State Legislature.

“Now the real work begins,” the governor-elect said during an afternoon news conference at the state Capitol in St. Paul.

In the New York contest, Mr. Bishop, who first won the seat in 2002, told reporters on a conference call that he was grateful to “withstand a Category 5 storm against incumbents,” according to Associated Press.

Mr. Altschuler, a businessman and former Wall Street banker, congratulated the incumbent in an e-mail statement to reporters, saying a hand recount would “place an unnecessary burden on the taxpayers of Suffolk County.”

The Republican trailed by 263 votes, with 977 absentee ballots left to be counted — out of the more than 194,000 votes cast.

The win sets the New York delegation at 21 Democrats — down from 26 — and eight Republicans, a gain of six. One of those new Republican seats had been vacant.

The Minnesota governor’s race is the state’s second big recount in two election cycles, following the 2008 victory by Democratic challenger Al Franken over then-incumbent Norm Coleman, a standoff that took months to settle.

“Minnesotans made their choice, by however thin a margin, and we respect that choice,” Mr. Emmer told reporters at his home outside Minneapolis. “I do not believe a delay in the seating of the next governor will unite us or help us move the state forward.”

Mr. Dayton, the first Democrat to win the governorship in 20 years, talked bluntly of tax increases while campaigning but now will have to work with new Republican legislative majorities that oppose that.

Mr. Dayton lost a month for making key hires and orienting himself to an executive branch that he may try to reshape as he confronts an expected $6.2 billion deficit.

While his transition team has been vetting possible commissioners, none has been formally selected, and probably none will be for days. He said he aims to name a chief of staff within two days.

“No excuses,” he said. “We’ll be ready.”

Mr. Emmer could have sued over the election outcome, and Democrats had feared he would do so simply to delay Mr. Dayton from taking office. But Mr. Emmer, 49, decided against it after a key state Supreme Court decision went against him. He cited the court’s opinion in his concession but also alluded to major issues facing the state.

Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he and Mr. Dayton would meet Thursday to plan the transition.

This article was based in part on wire service reports.