Klobuchar becomes first woman from Minnesota elected to the U.S. Senate

ST. PAUL -- Two Minnesotans are on track to become U.S. House committee chairmen and Amy Klobuchar will be the first Minnesota woman elected to the U.S. Senate.

ST. PAUL -- Two Minnesotans are on track to become U.S. House committee chairmen and Amy Klobuchar will be the first Minnesota woman elected to the U.S. Senate.

Democrat Klobuchar beat Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy in Tuesday's election.

With 75 percent of precincts reporting, Klo-buchar led 992,666 to 646,917 (58 to 38 percent) in unofficial returns.

Meanwhile, with Democrats taking over the U.S. House, Reps. Collin Peterson and Jim Oberstar are on track to take over two key committees for Minnesota after they posted easy wins.

In Peterson's western Minnesota district, he led with 69 percent of the vote.


In the northeast, north-central and east-central district Oberstar serves, he had 62 percent in partial returns.

Oberstar is expected to take over the Transportation Committee and Peterson plans to become Agriculture Committee chairman.

After CNN projected the Democrats would gain control of the House, Oberstar took the stage at the Duluth DFL celebration wielding an oversized gavel.

"I worked hard for this gavel and I am going to use this gavel," Oberstar said.

He immediately pledged to replace the Soo Locks, increase dredging in the Great Lakes and reinvest in the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He also promised new opportunities for passenger rail and rural transportation.

The shipping improvements will provide immediate boosts to Minnesota's taconite and farming industries, he said.

Oberstar plans to focus on moving forward.

"It's been a nasty campaign, but like Lincoln said, 'with malice toward none and charity toward all,"' he said.


At the Democrats' St. Paul election night party, Klobuchar took the stage with her husband, John, and daughter, Abigail, shortly before 10 p.m.

Klobuchar, who described Kennedy as "a tenacious, hard-working opponent," told supporters she would go to the Senate representing "a new direction that puts Minnesota families first."

An Associated Press exit poll showed Klobuchar won because so many Minnesotans are against the Iraqi war. Kennedy is a strong supporter of President Bush's war efforts.

Kennedy thanked his supporters after he called to congratulate Klobuchar.

Rothsay resident Robert Fitzgerald, the Independence Party candidate, received 3 percent of the vote in early returns.

Soon after 8 p.m., Democrat Keith Ellison of Minneapolis was declared the winner in his Minneapolis-based race and will become the first Muslin elected to Congress. Ellison also will be the first black Minnesota sends to the House.

Ellison will replace North Dakota native Martin Sabo in the U.S. House.

Here is a rundown of congressional races, with the prize a four-year term paying $165,200 a year:


n 1st District: GOP Rep. Gil Gutknecht, in office since 1995, trailed Democrat Tim Walz, 88,865 to 77,786 (53 to 47 percent). The district, which stretches from Wisconsin to South Dakota, has become a swing area since Gutknecht was elected Tim Walz's military background gained him votes.

n 2nd District: Republican John Kline, a career military man, won over Democrat Colleen Rowley 57 to 40 percent.

n 3rd District: Jamestown, N.D., native Jim Ramstad, a Republican, continued his history of easily beating opponents, this year was Democrat Wendy Wilde who lost 64 to 36 percent.

n 4th District: Three-term incumbent Democrat Betty McCollum's beat Republican Obi Sium in her St. Paul-centered district 70 to 30 percent.

n 5th District: Ellison, a Democratic state representative, had 56 percent of the vote (121,400 votes) with most of the vote counted. Republican Alan Fine and Tammy Lee of the Independence Party were tied with 21 percent for second in the Minneapolis-area district. Lee is a Concordia College Moorhead graduate and Alexandria-area native.

n 6th District: Sate Sen. Michele Bachmann beat child-safety advocate Patty Wetterling. With most of the votes counted, Bachmann has 119,882 to 101,571 (50 to 42 percent).

n 7th District: Peterson, who has served in the House since 1991, was leading 128,156 to 56,145 (69 to 30 percent) in partial returns. His opponent, Michael Barrett, made illegal immigration his top campaign issue for the western Minnesota district.

n 8th District: Oberstar has been congressman 32 years and will become the longest-serving Minnesota congressman ever with a win. He led 79,709 to 46,987 (62 to 36 percent) in partial returns. Former U.S. Sen. Rod Grams fought hard to convince voters that Oberstar ignores the district.


The Senate race had been expected to be close, expensive and one of the most carefully watched around the country. It ended up expensive, but once Klobuchar pulled out to a double-digit lead, national money never flowed into Minnesota.

Klobuchar will serve a six-year term replacing Dayton, a Democrat who opted not to seek re-election.

The biggest federal election impact to Minnesotans would be elevation of Peterson and Oberstar. Both have been the top Democrats on their committees, but the chairman wields much more power.

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