The race for governor: Dayton re-elected

Gov. Mark Dayton thanks supporters.
Gov. Mark Dayton thanks supporters after defeating Republican challenger Jeff Johnson Tuesday at DFL party headquarters in Minneapolis.
Jennifer Simonson / MPR News

Updated 11:54 a.m. Nov. 5 | Posted 5:25 p.m. Nov. 4

Minnesota voters have given Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton a second term.

Dayton defeated his Republican challenger, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. Dayton garnered 50.6 percent of the vote -- the first governor candidate to break the 50 percent threshold since Arne Carlson.

• Election 2014: Governor's race result | Local, statewide and national results | Coverage of key races | Photos from around Minnesota

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Johnson called Dayton to concede the race about 10:30 p.m.

In his concession speech a little while later, Johnson said although he had hoped to win, he had a lot to be thankful for. He also was conciliatory to Dayton.

"I wish Gov. Dayton success because I want Minnesota to succeed," Johnson said.

Afterward, Dayton thanked his supporters and reached out to those who voted against him.

"I believe that we all want the very best for Minnesota," the governor said. "We just disagree on the details."

Dayton said the futures and fortunes of Minnesotans are intertwined, and that those who love the state should safeguard it for coming generations.

"We owe ourselves and we owe all of them a better Minnesota," he said. "So let's begin again to build a better Minnesota beginning tomorrow."

The election's outcome was no surprise to Ken Martin, chair of the state DFL Party.

"I felt going into this race that we were going to win the top of the ticket," Martin said.

It was a big night for Dayton, who for three months fought a heated battle with Johnson. Both have crisscrossed the state, debating whether the governor and the DFL-controlled Legislature have the state moving in the right direction.

Dayton and DFL leaders in the House and Senate have counted on their work over the past two years to resonate with Democratic voters. They cited the minimum wage increase, same-sex marriage and higher income taxes on the top 2 percent of filers as just a few examples of their effective stewardship.

• Election 2014: Governor's race result | Local, statewide and national results | Coverage of key races | Photos from around Minnesota

Johnson offered voters the prospect of spending cuts, but he did not say what he would cut. He also called for making changes to MNsure, the state's online health insurance exchange. But his solution — asking the federal government to allow the state to opt out of the Affordable Care Act — seemed unlikely to succeed.

Neither candidate offered voters much in the way of specifics for the years ahead.

Although Dayton said he would push to increase annual school spending, he sidestepped questions on whether higher taxes are needed to deal with the state budget and whether the state should raise its gas tax to pay for transportation projects. Instead, the governor said his top priorities are jobs and the economy.

Johnson told voters that he supports a simplified tax system and that he would consider expanding the sales tax.

Late in the campaign, an ad from the state Republican Party used the Ebola crisis to attack Dayton. The ad, which started running Monday on several radio stations across the state, contends Dayton isn't doing enough to prepare for an Ebola outbreak. It also faults the governor for not supporting a travel ban from West African countries that have seen Ebola outbreaks.

In response, Dayton said his administration had been planning for weeks for a possible Ebola outbreak.