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Cravaack upset; both amendments fail

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.

Final bureau story

ART: none

SUGGESTED HED: Minnesota defeats marriage amendment

By Don Davis

Forum Communications

ST. PAUL -- Minnesotans became the first state to reject a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Since a state law remains on the books, the vote does not automatically allow same-sex weddings. However, with a newly elected Democratic-Farmer-Laborite Legislature and governor, the subject is bound to be debated when lawmakers take office in January.

Thirty other states approved the proposal when voters were asked. However, opponents to the proposed Minnesota constitutional amendment found money to buck the national trend.

With most of the votes counted, supporters garnered had 47 percent of the vote.

The campaign was the most expensive Minnesota constitutional amendment campaign ever, but regardless of the outcome nothing will change soon.

The battle has been brewing for years, with a May 2011 state Legislature vote to put the proposal on the ballot signaling the real start of the most extensive ballot question campaign in state history. In recent days, polls have shown the gap narrowing and for the first time pro-gay marriage forces appeared to have pulled into a virtual tie.

The amendment needed to receive more than half of all votes cast Tuesday, not just those cast for or against the amendment. That Minnesota requirement makes passing amendments more difficult because many voters skip them, so their votes are counted as "no" votes.

For all the talk about allowing same-sex marriage, Tuesday's vote had no direct effect on it. A state law remains on the books banning gay marriage, and it would take an act of the Legislature or the courts to change that.

However, legislative amendment supporters, mostly Republicans, said they want the state Constitution amended because that would provide better protection from lawmakers and judges who may want it overturned.

Six states allow gay marriage: Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. Thirty states have amended their constitutions to only allow straight couples to marry, and no proposed amendment has failed in other states.

Minnesotans United for All Families, the main group opposing the amendment, collected $11.2 million for its campaign. The primary supporting group, Minnesota for Marriage, reported raising $3.6 million.

Opponents toured the state in recent days. Both sides worked the telephones.

Republicans' party platform includes support of the amendment, while the Democratic-Farmer-Laborite document opposes it.

However, the issue does not break strictly along party lines. Religion plays a big role.

Religious organizations, including the Catholic Church, have joined hands in support of the amendment.

Religious leaders backing the amendment say the Bible and other religious teachings make it clear that marriage must be only between a man and a woman.

Opponents, however, contend that love is the overarching concern, as in "love thy neighbor as thyself."

Supporters also say children need a man and a woman as parents. Opponents say gay partners are left out of vital health and other decisions if same-sex marriage is not allowed.

Final bureau update

ART: none

SUGGESTED HED: Voters decide against voter ID

By Don Davis

Forum Communications

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota voters do not want to prove who they are.

Forty-six percent of voters Tuesday wanted to amend the state Constitution to require a photo ID before voting, but 50 percent was needed.

The Minnesota vote went against a trend in other states to approve voter ID.

Election officials said they know of little voter fraud and said the constitutional amendment would cost millions of dollars, but supporters said that democracy demands fair elections. To ensure fairness, they said, Minnesotans must submit photographic identifications before voting.

The voter ID concept was pushed by legislative Republicans. Debate on the issue is occurring in many states, with the National Conference of State Legislatures reporting a dozen states have voter photo ID requirements.

Some voter ID laws are under court review, including one in Wisconsin. Observers said they expected the Minnesota constitutional amendment also to face legal action if voters approved it.

Republicans who fear voter fraud passed a voter ID bill in 2011, but Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed it, saying he would not sign a bill changing election laws without significant bipartisan support.

Constitutional amendment proposals are passed by the Legislature, this year controlled by Republicans, and go directly to voters. The governor has no official say, although Dayton has campaigned against voter ID.

Voter ID supporters say they have dug up files on hundreds of illegal votes. Most, however, were felons whose voting rights had not been restored, a category of illegal voters that amendment opponents say would not be affected by requiring an ID.

Opponents say such a constitutional amendment would disenfranchise voters such as the elderly, the poor, minorities and others who would find it difficult to obtain photo IDs.

The amendment would require photo IDs, but accept "substantially equivalent" identification from absentee and other voters who do not cast ballots in polling places on Election Day.

It would be up to the next Legislature to determine what is equivalent to a photo ID and to enact a number of laws to implement the amendment.