- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 8, 2010

DELANO, Minn. (AP) — Republican Tom Emmer has conceded the Minnesota governor’s race to Mark Dayton after a statewide recount made little difference in the Democrat’s election-night lead of nearly 9,000 votes.

Mr. Emmer said Wednesday that state voters made their choice, by a thin margin, and he respects that choice. He could have sued but decided against doing so after a key state Supreme Court decision went against him Tuesday.

For Mr. Dayton, the victory caps a remarkable career revival just four years after the end of a mostly ineffectual single term in the U.S. Senate. More than a month after Election Day, it is a rare bright spot for a party that was swamped in the midterm elections. And it gives Democrats back a governorship they seemed to have forgotten how to win: Mr. Dayton will break his party’s 20-year absence from the seat.

Mr. Emmer’s decision came on the same day the Minnesota Supreme Court issued an opinion that closed off a potential avenue for an election lawsuit.

The justices said local officials were within their power to use more than one method for pairing the number of votes and voters. In some places, officials count slips of paper known as voter receipts rather than counting signatures in polling place rosters. The goal is to make sure vote tallies in precincts match the number of voters.

During the weeklong recount, Republican volunteers challenged thousands of ballots, but most challenges were ruled frivolous by local election officials. Ultimately, almost all challenges from both sides were withdrawn. That made the state canvassing board meeting due to start Wednesday all but academic.

Mr. Dayton will be sworn in Jan. 3, with the Legislature to convene the next day.

Though Mr. Emmer was destined to lose the recount, a lawsuit — called an election challenge — was still an option. Less than two years after the state’s rancorous U.S. Senate race spawned a lawsuit that kept that seat unfilled for a half-year, some Democrats feared the GOP would opt for one again just to keep Mr. Dayton out of office.

But even some Republicans said they hadn’t seen anything that would have supported a successful legal challenge by Mr. Emmer.

Both Mr. Dayton and Mr. Emmer created transition teams, but uncertainty over the result threatened an orderly change in administrations just as Minnesota confronts a $6.2 billion budget deficit.

Mr. Dayton campaigned on a promise to tax the wealthy as part of a budget solution and said during the recount that he intended to pursue that if confirmed as the winner. But he’ll have to work with new Republican majorities in both legislative chambers.

Mr. Dayton, 63, served a single term in the U.S. Senate from 2000 to 2006 before deciding not to run for a second. He worked briefly as a schoolteacher early in his career before turning to politics and public service, serving as state auditor in the 1990s and holding Cabinet-level positions in two different administrations in the 1970s and ‘80s.

Mr. Emmer, 49, is a three-term state legislator whose reputation as a Capitol firebrand made it a surprise for some when he beat out a more experienced lawmaker to become the Republican nominee in the spring.


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