Dayton, with slim lead, tells supporters he's hopeful

2:10 a.m.

With the gubernatorial race still too close to call, DFLer Mark Dayton addressed a crowd of supporters at the Hilton Hotel in Minneapolis.

"Sorry to keep you waiting," he said. "We wish things were proceeding faster than they are."

The DFL candidate said he's optimistic that strong returns in northern Minnesota will be enough to secure victory.

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With 94 percent of precincts reporting, Dayton leads Republican Tom Emmer by 13,812 votes.

Dayton thanked supporters and added, "I'll write you all notes who have to go to work tomorrow morning."

Dayton supporter Clifford Peohler said he doesn't plan to leave the ballroom until the race has been decided.

Dayton party
Kevin Lai of Apple Valley, Minn. watches election results on a big projection screen at the Minneapolis Hilton in Minneapolis, Minn. Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

"The people to leave early are the same people who leave a Twins game early," he said. "The Twins rally in the ninth to win and they miss a great finish."

1:45 a.m.

As the votes trickle in and the governor's race stays tight, the possibility of an automatic recount hovers. A vote difference of about 11,000 or fewer would likely trigger a recount.

Minnesota law requires that all ballots be recounted if the margin of victory is less than one half of 1 percent of all votes tallied.

Based on current voter tallies, that would mean that a difference of about 11,000 votes would trigger a mandatory recount.

DFLer Mark Dayton is leading Republican Tom Emmer by 16,000 votes, with 90 percent of precincts reporting.

1:37 a.m.

Tom Emmer
Republican candidate for governor Tom Emmer speaks at a rally in Blaine, Minn. on Oct. 30, 2010.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

Republican Tom Emmer briefly addressed a cheering crowd of supporters at the Sheraton Hotel in Bloomington.

"We're not quite done yet," he said, as the crowd broke into applause.

With 88 percent of the precincts counted, Emmer was trailing DFLer Mark Dayton by about 19,000 votes.

"Keep the faith," Emmer said. "We're very encouraged. The numbers are moving in the right direction."

Emmer told the crowd that he's confident he will win the election and could be addressing supporters again quite soon.

1:08 a.m.

Two counties have finally been heard from in the governor's office. Brown and Sibley counties have reported results, both giving substantial margins to Republican Tom Emmer.

1:04 a.m.

DFLer Mark Dayton's lead has dropped to fewer than 30,000 votes with three-quarters of Minnesota's precincts reporting in the governor's race. The Independence Party's Tom Horner, who conceded several hours earlier, has 12 percent.

Three counties have not yet reported any results, according to the Secretary of State's office. Those three -- Brown, Sibley and Morrison -- went strongly for Republican Tim Pawlenty four years ago.

On the other hand, most St. Louis County precincts are also untallied, and that's a traditional DFL stronghold.

12:35 a.m.

DFLer Mark Dayton has a narrow lead over Republican Tom Emmer in the tight gubernatorial race. With almost three-quarters of the state's precincts reporting, Dayton has a 31,000-vote lead, 44 percent to 42 percent. The Independence Party's Tom Horner, who conceded several hours earlier, has 12 percent.

Earlier tonight, Republican Party chair Tony Sutton said Emmer needed a big win in Anoka County to secure the governorship.

Right now, Emmer leads DFLer Mark Dayton by about 10 percent in Anoka County, with 97 percent of precincts reporting.

Four years ago, Republican Tim Pawlenty carried the county by 9 percentage points.

12:10 a.m.

DFLer Mark Dayton has a narrow lead over Republican Tom Emmer in the tight gubernatorial race. With two-thirds of the state's precincts reporting, Dayton leads with 45 percent of the vote. Emmer trails by 3 percentage points. The Independence Party's Tom Horner, who conceded several hours earlier, has 12 percent.

Results from key counties show few surprises in the tight gubernatorial race.

Dayton has a strong early lead in St. Louis County, a traditional DFL stronghold. With 22.5 percent of precincts reporting, Dayton has 62 percent of the vote. Republican Tom Emmer has 27 percent, and the Independence Party's Tom Horner garnered 9 percent. Horner conceded defeat earlier this evening.

In 2006, DFL candidate Mike Hatch received 65 percent of the vote in the rural county, while Republican Tim Pawlenty received 29 percent.

Emmer was expected to win by a large margin in southern Minnesota's Olmsted County. Emmer has 46 percent of the vote and Dayton 38 percent, with 97.3 percent of precincts reporting. Horner received 15 percent of the vote.

10:48 p.m.

The Independence Party's Tom Horner has conceded defeat in the race for governor.

Horner thanked his supporters in remarks at the Sheraton West hotel in Minnetonka. He said despite his loss, the campaign succeeded in sending a powerful message.

"I think what we really showed Minnesota is that there is a center to Minnesota politics," Horner told supporters. "There are more Minnesotans who are eager to look beyond partisan interests .... (and) to look beyond whether they are Democratic or Republican solutions and start focusing on Minnesota solutions."

The race between Republican Tom Emmer and DFLer Mark Dayton remains too close to call.

10:20 p.m.

What looked to be a record voter turnout in Hennepin County is the result of an error, said Rachel Smith, director of elections for Hennepin County.

The Secretary of State's website shows that more than 880,000 people have cast ballots in Hennepin County, compared to about 492,000 in the 2006 gubernatorial race.

Smith said that officials are retabulating the results for Hennepin County. Smith said officials have not determined what caused the error, but they think it's related to the loading of absentee ballots.

The Secretary of State's website shows that 706,490 people were registered to vote as of 7 a.m. today. Minnesota allows for same-day voter registration, but it's rare for more than 20 percent of voters to have registered on Election Day.

Election officials have isolated the problem to Corcoran, Crystal, Hopkins, Independence, Maple Plain, Medina, Minnetrista, Orono, Rogers, and St. Anthony. Smith said the affected areas represent a very small percentage of precincts.

10:00 p.m.

The Independence Party's Tom Horner continues to trail his DFL and Republican opponents. With 24 percent of precincts reporting, Horner has 12 percent of the vote.

"I knew all along that this was going to be a daunting challenge," Horner told MPR's Mark Zdechlik.

Horner said that regardless of the election's outcome, he believes the campaign has been successful in defining some of the race's key issues. "What I really feel good about is the opportunity we gave centrist Minnesotans to find a home," he said.

9:40 p.m.

Republican Party chair Tony Sutton said he expects a narrow victory for candidate Tom Emmer.

"I feel pretty good about where we stand right now," Sutton told MPR's Tom Scheck. "It's going to be a close race for governor. I think everybody understood that coming into it."

Sutton said he'll be paying close attention to results from Anoka County and the eighth congressional district.

"We have to win Anoka County and win it decisively in order to win the governor's race," Sutton said.

Republicans are hoping that a strong turnout from conservative voters in the southern half of the eighth congressional district will tip the scales in Emmer's favor.

Emmer has a 7 percent lead over DFLer Mark Dayton in Anoka County, with about 47 percent of precincts reporting.

Four years ago, Republican Tim Pawlenty carried Anoka County with a 9 percent margin.

9:23 p.m.

DFLer Mark Dayton is maintaining an early lead in the tight gubernatorial race. With 17 percent of precincts reporting, Dayton has 51 percent of the vote, Republican Tom Emmer has 36 percent, and the Independence Party's Tom Horner has 12 percent.

Nearly half of the precincts reporting so far are in Hennepin County.

9:15 p.m.

DFL party chair Brian Melendez said he's confident that Mark Dayton will perform well in the critical southern and western counties known as "the L."

"I think we did everything we can, and I think we're going to see it pay off later this evening," Melendez told MPR's Tim Pugmire.

If Dayton does well in the L, he'll "cruise handily" to victory, Melendez said.

8:55 p.m.

Initial returns show DFL candidate Mark Dayton performing well in traditional DFL strongholds. With 11 percent of precincts reporting, Dayton has 53 percent of the vote, with Republican Tom Emmer at 34 percent, and the Independence Party's Tom Horner at 12 percent.

8:40 p.m.

Several hundred supporters of Republican candidate Tom Emmer are gathering at the Sheraton Hotel in Bloomington for election night festivities. Emmer is at the hotel watching the results with his family. Supporters told MPR's Tom Scheck they're optimistic Emmer can pick up enough votes in Greater Minnesota to win the race.

8:33 p.m.

Independence Party candidate Tom Horner has arrived at the ballroom in the Sheraton West hotel in Minnetonka.

Horner took the podium for a few minutes to thank his family and friends. Several hundred people have gathered in the ballroom. Supporters say they're hoping for a strong voter turnout in south Minneapolis, Edina, and St. Cloud.

Horner has trailed DFLer Mark Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer in recent polls.

8:22 p.m.

DFL candidate Mark Dayton plans to track the election returns from a hotel room at the Minneapolis Hilton, and come downstairs to the ballroom and greet supporters once there's some news.

Dayton voted earlier today at Emerson Spanish Immersion School near his home in Minneapolis. A campaign spokesman told MPR's Tim Pugmire that the DFL candidate took one of his dogs to the vet and was eating dinner with his sons and father before heading over to the hotel.

Dayton wrapped up his campaign last night with rallies in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. He also made stops Monday in Duluth, Hibbing, Moorhead, Worthington and Rochester.

8:15 p.m.

Supporters of DFL candidate Mark Dayton are gathering in the ballroom of the Hilton hotel in Minneapolis. Organizers said they expect at least 400 people will show up to attend the festivities at the DFL's election night headquarters.

The election night program will start about 9 p.m. DFL party chairman Brian Melendez, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, state Senator Larry Pogemiller and Minnesota's U.S. Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar are expected to address the crowd.

8:10 p.m.

MPR's Tom Scheck has a post on the Capitol View blog about what to look for as the results come in.

1) Will the L tell? Gov. Pawlenty won Minnesota's 1st Congressional District by 6 percentage points in 2006. He won the 7th Congressional District by 9 percentage points. Polling is showing that Democrat Mark Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer are running about even in that portion of the state (the so-called L). Dayton will have the advantage if he does well here and holds his own among DFL strongholds.

2) What's the word in the 3rd? Independence Party candidate Tom Horner is expected to have his best showing in the 3rd Congressional District which includes the western Twin Cities suburbs. Gov. Pawlenty won the district by 12 percentage points four years ago. This district is made up mostly of moderate Republicans and it will be a bellwether as to whether Horner convinced those Republicans to go with him instead of Emmer. It will be a long night for Dayton and Horner if Emmer performs well here.

You can view the entire blog post here.

8:01 p.m.

The polls are now closed in Minnesota, and the wait for election results in the tight gubernatorial race has begun.

Polls in recent weeks showed DFL candidate Mark Dayton edging slightly ahead of Republican Tom Emmer and the Independence Party's Tom Horner running a distant third.

Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty opted not to seek a third term, amid speculation of a 2012 presidential run.

Minnesota has not elected a DFL governor since Rudy Perpich won re-election in 1986.

Some election observers said today's voter turnout could exceed 60 percent, in part because of favorable weather conditions and several competitive races. In the last gubernatorial election, in 2006, about 60 percent of eligible Minnesota voters cast ballots.

The three major party candidates for governor have crisscrossed the state for months, appeared at 26 debates, and spent nearly $8 million this year on their campaigns.

Much of the debate during the campaign has centered on how to fix the state's projected $5.8 billion deficit.

Dayton has called for higher income taxes for wealthy Minnesotans, which he has said would prevent deep cuts to education and social services. Emmer has vowed not to raise taxes, and has said that the deficit is the result of rampant government spending. For his part, Horner has said the state can balance the budget in part by expanding the sales tax to clothing and services and lowering the tax rate.

Across the nation, a record 37 gubernatorial seats are up for grabs, and more than half have no incumbent running.

Right now, there are 26 Democratic governors and 24 Republicans, but polls suggest that Republicans will gain the advantage after today's election. Democrats are in danger of losing governorships in key swing states, including Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa.