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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published November 07 2012

Cravaack upset, Klobuchar in easy win

ST. PAUL -- Chip Cravaack gained national attention two years ago when he upset long-time U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, but early Wednesday he lost to a congressman who served three decades ago.

Democrat Rick Nolan upset Cravaack in a razor-thin win.

Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar breezed to an easy re-election victory Tuesday and most U.S. House members from Minnesota won.

Rep. Michele Bachmann remained in a virtual tie early Wednesday with Jim Graves.

Winning congressmen included Collin Peterson, Tim Walz, John Kline, Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum and Erik Paulsen.

Cravaack conceded shortly after 1 a.m., ending a race that attracted millions of dollars in outside advertising to the district, which serves the northeastern quarter of Minnesota.

One of the groups that spent money for Nolan said he would do well.

“Congratulations to Rick Nolan on his victory,” said Alixandria Lapp, executive director of House Majority PAC. “Minnesota will benefit from Rick Nolan's commitment to fight for the middle class, to protect and strengthen Medicare and Social Security and to create jobs.”

The political action committee spent $1.5 million on Nolan’s behalf, airing five television commercials and sending seven mailers.

Nolan led 53 percent to 47 percent with about three-fourths of the vote counted.

Klobuchar earned Minnesota’s first 2012 election night win when news services declared her a re-election victor moments after the polls closed.

With two-thirds of precincts reporting, Klobuchar led Kurt Bills 64 percent to 32 percent.

The triumph over Bills was because “we reached out and found common ground for people in the state,” Klobuchar said.

“I really believe we need more people like that to work for the common ground,” she told Forum Communications minutes after she was declared the winner. “It is not always easy. You can make people mad in your own party from time to time.”

For much of her campaign, Klobuchar hammered home the theme that she is willing to work with Republicans and Democrats.

Her fellow Democratic U.S. senator was happy.

“She has always put the middle class first, has been a relentless fighter for our state, and she has a track record of working across the aisle to get things done,” Al Franken said.

Bills told Republicans that he always knew it would be a tough race.

"We took it to her with the resources we had...” Bills said. “And we never gave up."

In her speech to a packed St. Paul ballroom, Klobuchar agreed that Bills “campaigned hard to the end.”

“We won this election the right way,” she said, with her husband and daughter by her side. “We worked hard. We were positive and optimistic about the future of Minnesota. We won because we were forward looking.”

Soon after news organizations declared Klobuchar the winner, Republicans gathered in Bloomington had something to cheer when they heard projections that the U.S. House would remain under GOP control.

The Klobuchar-Bills race never appeared close.

Bills, 42, often blamed Klobuchar, 52, for lack of budget progress in Washington and said she has not been a leader. Klobuchar, however, said she was one of the senators led on a law that is a framework for a balanced budget.

The first term senator often is mentioned as a potential presidential candidate.

Senators and representatives make $174,000 a year. Senators serve six years, House members two years.

Here is a look at U.S. House races across Minnesota with most votes counted:

-- In the 1st Congressional District, which spans southern Minnesota, Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz won, with 58 percent support over longtime Republican activist Allen Quist. Walz, a teacher and coach, has served in the House since 2007.

-- Republican John Kline, the highest-ranking Minnesota congressman as chairman of the House education and labor committee, feat Democrat Mike Obermueller in the 2nd Congressional District, just south of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Kline had 53 percent.

-- Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, a former state House majority leader before heading to Congress in 2009, beat Democrat Brian Barnes in the western Twin Cities’ 3rd Congressional District. Paulsen had 59 percent with more than half of precincts counted.

-- Democratic U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum easily beat Republican Tony Hernandez in the eastern Twin Cities’ 4th Congressional District. McCollum, who had nearly 62 percent of the vote, served in the state House before being elected to Congress in 2000.

-- Congress’ first Muslim, Democrat Keith Ellison, won a sometimes-heated battle with Republican Chris Fields. Ellison has been congressman since 2007, following service in the state House. Ellison led with 69 percent.

-- U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann returned to Minnesota after failing in the Republican presidential race and late Tuesday was in a close contest with Democrat Jim Graves, who earned his fortune in the hotel business. Bachmann was a state senator before going to the U.S. House in 2007.

-- U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee and in Congress since 1991, handily beat Republican Lee Byberg for the second election in a row. Byberg is a Willmar businessman. Peterson had 61 percent. The Independence Party’s Adam Steele of Bemidji also was in the race.

Free-lance writers Andrew Tellijohn and Martin Owings contributed to this story.