Cravaack widens lead over Oberstar in 8th District

Chip Cravaack
Republican Chip Cravaack, 8th Congressional District candidate, reacts to results at Tobies Restaurant in Hinckley, Minn. Tuesday Nov. 2, 2010.
Mike Creger/Duluth News Tribune via AP

3:22 a.m.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar is in the fight of his long political life as he trades leads with GOP challenger Chip Cravaack in northeastern Minnesota's 8th District.

With 95 percent of precincts counted, former Navy pilot Cravaack led Oberstar by more than 4,000 votes out of more than 260,000 cast in the large, heavily rural and mostly solid Democratic district.

Oberstar, the dean of the state's congressional delegation, had never gotten less than 59 percent of the vote since he first ran and won in 1974.

1:30 a.m.

The see-saw battle in Minnesota's 8th District has shifted again, putting Rep. Jim Oberstar back in the lead. With three-quarters of the precincts reporting, Oberstar had a near 3,000-vote lead.

12:38 p.m.

Rep. John Kline
Rep. John Kline speaks at an election night party at the Sheraton in Bloomington, Minn. on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010.
MPR Photo/Caroline Yang

Republican challenger Chip Cravaack has pulled ahead of veteran Rep. James Oberstar in the 8th District of northeastern Minnesota.

With just under half the precincts reporting, Cravaack holds a 1,229-vote lead.

11:41 p.m.

Seven of Minnesota's eight members of Congress are headed back to Washington, but it might be a while before we know if Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar will hold off his Republican challenger in the 8th District.

The Associated Press results showed Oberstar ahead 52 percent to Republican Chip Cravaack's 44 percent with about 33 percent of the precincts reporting. The Secretary of State's Office showed the two were within a half of a percentage point with only 13 percent reporting.

Thousands of votes had yet to be counted in St. Louis County, a longtime DFL stronghold.

Erik Paulsen
Erik Paulsen speaks at during an election night party at the Sheraton in Bloomington, Minn., on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010.
MPR Photo/Caroline Yang

At Oberstar headquarters in Duluth, the tone had quieted and many in the crowd had called it a night. In the hall at the Holiday Inn, the drinks still flowed -- although not as quickly as before -- and the wait continued for those who chose to stay.

In Hinckley, the crowd gathered for Cravaack dwindled to less than 100. Many there said they didn't expect to know the result of the race anytime soon.

11:10 p.m.

The excitement was palpable as Rep. Michele Bachmann stepped onto the stage to give her victory speech before a roaring crowd of supporters.

"I just want you all to know that this was a group project," Bachmann declared before launching into a litany of thank yous.

"Congress didn't listen to the American people but tonight they do listen to the American people," Bachmann said.

Bachmann victory
Rep. Michele Bachmann speaks to a crowd after winning her congressional race against DFL candidate Tarryl Clark at the Sheraton in Bloomington, Minn. on Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010.
MPR Photo/Caroline Yang

Republicans have won a majority in the U.S. House.

She said Republicans will stop "out of control spending" and "make sure this country will move forward again."

At one point the crowd erupted into a chant, shouting "U.S.A"

Bachmann isn't in line to lead any House committees, but she could have an expanded role with her House Tea Party Caucus.

In St. Cloud, Bachmann's Democratic opponent Tarryl Clark hadn't yet given a concession speech.

Her supporters, including Joe Melcher, expressed their disappointment.

"That's the way the votes went. We can't argue with that," Melcher said. "I think it's Minnesota's loss."

11:00 p.m.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson has won re-election in Minnesota's 7th District.

Peterson held off Republican challenger Lee Byberg with 55 percent of the vote to Byberg's 38 percent.

Peterson, who had been chairman of the House agriculture committee will be demoted to "ranking member," because the Republicans have won a majority in the House.

10:45 p.m.

Rep. Tim Walz has won in Minnesota's 1st Congressional District, making it a successful night so far for Minnesota congressional incumbents. Walz held off his Republican challenger Randy Demmer to win a third term in Congress.

Observers had wondered if the Republican surge this year might cause problems for Walz, who was first elected in 2006.

In addition to Democrat Walz, Republicans Michele Bachmann, Erik Paulsen and John Kline have been declared the winners in their districts, and Democrats Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison have also been re-elected.

Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar was leading in early returns. Oberstar had about 57 percent to Republican Chip Cravaack's 39 percent.

The tally so far for Walz has him with 50 percent to Republican Randy Demmer's 43 percent.

At Oberstar headquarters in Duluth, Mayor Don Ness and other supporters said they were optimistic Oberstar would return to Washington to serve Minnesota's 8th District.

Ness said one thing the tea party crowd brought to Minnesota this year was "an appreciation to what Jim Oberstar means to the district."

But even if Oberstar hangs on, he'll have a very different role. Republicans have won a majority in the U.S. House, which means Oberstar would be "ranking member" of the House transportation committee instead of its chairman.

10:22 p.m.

Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has been declared the winner in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District.

Bachmann and Democratic challenger Tarryl Clark raised $15 million in the race, making it one of the most expensive races in the country.

Bachmann's Tea Party Caucus in the House could become more important now that it looks like Republicans will win a majority in the House.

Even before her victory tonight, Bachmann appeared on MSNBC with Chris Matthews and set forth several goals she believes Republicans should pursue in Washington.

10:10 p.m.

Only about 8 percent of the results are available in Minnesota's 8th Congressional District race between Democratic Rep. Jim Oberstar and Republican Chip Cravaack.

Oberstar told MPR News earlier tonight that he knew it would be a tough year for Democrats like himself, but he disagreed with host Gary Eichten's assessment of the 8th District race as a "nip and tuck-er."

"I think nip and tuck is greatly overstated. But I anticipated a difficult year from the very outset," Oberstar said.

At Oberstar headquarters in Duluth, a large crowd gathered to watch the returns. Many were in a good mood, and DFLers were winning local races as expected.

Oberstar had 50 percent of the vote to Cravaack's 43 percent with thousands of votes yet to be counted.

At Cravaack's headquarters in Hinckley, the former Navy Reserve captain appeared briefly.

"It's a miracle what we've done," he said.

Charlene Harms, of rural Duluth, decided to support Cravaack when Oberstar declined to hold a town hall meeting about health care reform. Harms said she thinks the law is "socialism."

Laura Olson, of Two Harbors, said Oberstar was an effective leader early in his career, but she said lately he's been "on his own agenda."

9:31 p.m.

Republican U.S. Rep. John Kline has been declared the winner in Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District.

Kline, who has served four terms, could become chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee if Republicans gain a majority tonight.

Election results showed Kline with nearly 64 percent of the vote to Democrat Shelley Madore's 36 percent.

9:27 p.m.

Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann is ahead in early returns out of Minnesota's 6th Congressional District.

According to results from the Minnesota Secretary of State, Bachmann had about 50 percent of the vote to Democrat Tarryl Clark's 43 percent with 15 percent of the precincts reporting. Independent Bob Anderson had 5 percent.

Bachmann spoke briefly with reporters about Republican gains nationally.

"We're seeing people republish the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in their hearts tonight with this vote," she said. "It's really not a negative vote. I think it's a positive vote. People are saying we believe in America, we believe in the future."

At Clark's headquarters in St. Cloud, supporters remained optimistic that the state senator could pull off an upset.

"I think we have a great chance of getting Tarryl into Congress. I think she's got the pulse of this area. And she knows what we need," said Kimberly Johnson, of St. Cloud.

"She's such a great candidate, No. 1," supporter and St. Cloud resident Rick Miller added. "I think the assumption in the popular media is that Bachmann is going to win. But I'm certainly feeling hopeful."

9:07 p.m.

The polls have been closed for one hour, and already three of Minnesota's eight members of Congress have won re-election -- Democrats Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum and Republican Erik Paulsen.

Eyes were on Minnesota's 1st, 6th and 8th Districts. In southern Minnesota, Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz was thanking volunteers in the Rochester area and was expected to make his way to Mankato by 10 p.m. Walz is trying to defend his seat against Republican challenger Randy Demmer, who observers say has a chance.

Walz's campaign manager Rich Carlbom said the campaign will be watching results from certain areas of the district more than others.

"It's absolutely important that we do well in Rochester; it's the largest city in the district," Carlbom said.

At the City Center Hotel in Mankato, Walz supporters gathered to watch the returns on a big screen projector.

8:59 p.m.

Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison and Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen have been re-elected to Congress.

Ellison was re-elected to Minnesota's 5th Congressional District, which includes Minneapolis, after gaining 70 percent of the vote to Republican challenger Joel Demos' 21 percent.

Ellison has served two terms in Congress.

Paulsen, who has served one term representing the southwest suburbs, received 58 percent of the vote to Democrat Jim Meffert's 37 percent.

8:50 p.m.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum has been re-elected to Minnesota's 4th Congressional District, which covers St. Paul and a few suburbs in the metro area.

An easy win was expected for McCollum, as Democrats have held the seat for decades.

McCollum had pulled in 73 percent of the vote to Republican Teresa Collett's 20 percent. Not all the results are in, but The Associated Press has declared McCollum the victor.

8:48 p.m.

Republican U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has arrived at Republican headquarters in Bloomington and was expected to make a national TV appearance.

Bachmann hasn't addressed her supporters yet. She's expected to appear on MSNBC with Chris Matthews. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported the appearance would be at about 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, Bachmann's campaign expected a "healthy" victory. Campaign staffers for her Democratic opponent, Tarryl Clark, were also feeling good.

Clark spokeswoman Carrie Lucking said turnout was high in the Minnesota's 6th Congressional District, but she said it was also high in areas where Republicans usually do well.

The Clark campaign is watching Anoka County in particular.

The two have raised $15 million, with Bachmann raising about $11 million of that, and most observers expect victory will go to Bachmann. But no polling was done in the race.

8:10 p.m.

With the polls now closed in Minnesota, the state's eight members of Congress will soon find out whether voters believe they deserve another two years in the U.S. House.

All eyes are on Democrat Jim Oberstar, who has served Minnesota's 8th Congressional District since 1975.

Oberstar has spent more time reaching out to voters in this year's campaign than he has in recent years. Republican Chip Cravaack, a retired Navy Reserve captain, believes he has a chance to unseat Oberstar.

Political observers have called the race a toss-up in recent days.

But it might take time before the results are known from northeastern Minnesota. Results from that region usually take longer.

Tom Selinski, of Chisholm, arrived early at Oberstar's campaign headquarters in Duluth, where he hopes the veteran congressman will celebrate a victory later tonight.

Selinski, who was kept one eye on televised returns and his other on a book in his lap, said he's supported Oberstar "all his life."

Meanwhile, at Cravaack's Election Night party in Hinckley, about 80 people had gathered. Cravaack's campaign said the former Navy Reserve captain was expected to make an appearance within the hour.

(MPR reporters Bob Kelleher, Stephanie Hemphill, Annie Baxter, Mark Steil, Ambar Espinoza, Liz Baier and Raghav Mehta contributed to this report.)

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