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NBC predicts Dayton wins final victory

Mark Dayton

By Don Davis

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton hoped for one final victory Tuesday to cap his nearly 40-year career as a public servant, and NBC News said that would happen.

No vote totals were available as of press time in the race between Dayton, seeking his second term as governor, and Republican Jeff Johnson. However, NBC News projected Dayton would win less than 15 minutes after polls closed Tuesday night, based on exit polls and supported by polls conducted before Election Day.

It was a race that began as one between two nice guys but ended with harsh talk like many other races.

Dayton said he improved Minnesota by creating jobs, investing in education and reforming government. Johnson said Dayton raised taxes too high and the jobs he created still left many Minnesotans underemployed.

Johnson labeled Dayton as incompetent and said the Democrat did not know what was in bills he signed. Dayton, however, said that Republicans were nitpicking on details when they should focus on the fact that as governor he took the state from a $6 billion budget deficit to budget surplus.

Dayton said Tuesday’s election would be his last. After he worked briefly as a New York City teacher, he began working for then-U.S. Sen. Walter Mondale 39 years ago. He later moved to the administration of Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich and served one term as auditor and one as U.S. Senate, with a defeat in his first governor's race in between.

This year's election was the first time Dayton ever ran for a second term. He said that the governor's office suits him better than any job he has held. Dayton grew up in the Twin Cities, where he has lived much of his life.

Johnson is a lawyer raised in Detroit Lakes, Minn. He attended college in nearby Moorhead, worked out of state for a few years, became a Minnesota state representative and lost a race for state attorney general. He has been the lone Republican Hennepin County commissioner the past six years.

Headed into the election, Dayton led Johnson by an average of nearly 9 points in October polls.

Minnesota's governor serves a four-year term and next year will be paid $123,912.

The Dayton-Johnson campaign began with the candidates giving voters few specifics. Dayton campaigned very little until October arrived, while Johnson was on the trail much of the time all year.

Taxes were a major issue in the campaign.

Dayton often talked about how his plan to raise taxes $2 billion, mostly on the rich, provided needed funds for state programs such as education. He won that proposal when voters two years ago gave him a House and Senate controlled by fellow Democrats.

However, things did not go as well for Dayton in his first two years in office. Right out of the chute, he and Republicans clashed on the budget, leading to a 21-day shutdown in 2011.

Johnson did not discuss the shutdown as much as he talked about Dayton not knowing items in bills he signed into law.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.