Dayton looks to unify DFL as he takes on Horner, Emmer

Mark Dayton gives hugs
Mark Dayton hugs Tess Baker, 16, right, and Eric Skog, 11, as Alacia Bergh, 18, looks on in St. Paul, Minn. Tuesday, August 11, 2010.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Minnesota Democrats planned a rally Wednesday afternoon aimed at unifying the DFL Party behind former Sen. Mark Dayton.

Dayton finished the DFL gubernatorial primary with about 6,800 more votes than Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the DFL-endorsed candidate.

He faces Independence Party candidate Tom Horner and Republican Tom Emmer in November.

Kelliher conceded the race late Wednesday morning, saying she had congratulated Mark Dayton on his victory.

"I offered him my full support. He will make an excellent governor," Kelliher said in a written statement. "Today we will come together as DFLers."

Dayton had waited until Kelliher's concession to declare victory. The third DFL candidate in the race, Matt Entenza, conceded Tuesday evening.

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Dayton said in an interview with MPR's Morning Edition that he is confident Minnesota Democrats will work together to win the governor's office in November.

Chatting with a friend
Mark Dayton chats with his friend Carol Kough at his headquarters in St. Paul, Minn. Tuesday, August 10, 2010.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

"We promised each other and promised the people of Minnesota that we would unite this party after the results were known, and I have no doubt that we'll do that," he said.

Dayton attributed his success to his long political career in the state, and he praised party officials' efforts to nominate Kelliher.

"They made a very strong effort, they turned out a lot of votes, they closed the margins for what some of the polls were showing," Dayton said.

While Dayton's main challenge heading into the November election could be courting the DFL Party faithful who endorsed Kelliher, he's far ahead of Horner and Emmer in fundraising.

Watching results at Dayton headquarters
Mark Dayton supporter Jean Kyle watches the results projected at Dayton headquarters in St. Paul, Minn. Tuesday, August 10, 2010.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

Dayton has already spent $3.3 million of his own money on his campaign, and he's expected to spend more. He also said it will be easier to raise money from supporters now that there will be only one DFL candidate.

"There's a big responsibility on my shoulders, and I'm going to do my best also to raise money from other people," he said.

In the Morning Edition interview, Dayton was already talking about his Republican opponent.

He accused Emmer of speaking about the state's projected $6 billion budget deficit "in broad platitudes with no detail at all."

In a separate interview with Morning Edition, Emmer didn't list any specific budget fixes but said his campaign has been "releasing specifics all along."

Instead, he emphasized what he believes is the main difference between his campaign and his two opponents.

"They both believe that higher taxes and more government intervention in the economy are the solutions to our high unemployment and our weak economy," Emmer said. "By contrast, we believe that higher taxes and more government intervention will kill jobs and weaken our ability to compete economically even more."

Dayton wants to raise income taxes for the state's top earners, and Horner has proposed extending the sales tax to clothing and services.

The Republican Party planned to release its first TV ad of the campaign on Wednesday afternoon.

Horner's main challenge in the 83 days before the November election will be raising money. He has said he will try to raise $2.5 million and run TV ads.

He told Morning Edition he will take advantage of about $250,000 in public money for his campaign, and he said he hopes to continue raising money from people across the state.

Horner said the state budget crisis is leading Minnesotans to look for something different.

"2010 is the year in which Minnesotans are looking for solutions, they're looking for action and they're looking for innovation," Horner said. "They've just grown weary of all the political fights over who's right instead of focusing on what's right."

(MPR's Cathy Wurzer and Tom Scheck contributed to this report.)