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Klobuchar takes U.S. Senate victory; McCollum tops Hernandez in CD4

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

However, some House races remained close late Tuesday, with one in the northeastern quarter of Minnesota likely not to be decided until Wednesday.

Winning U.S. Reps. Included Collin Peterson, Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum and Erik Paulsen.

The 8th Congressional District in the northeastern quarter of Minnesota that featured first-term GOP U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan.

Cravaack was the only Minnesota incumbent in Congress to trail in early returns, although Rep. Michelle Bachmann barely led opponent Jim Graves with a third 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.

The triumph over Republican Kurt 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:

-- In the 1st Congressional District, which spans southern Minnesota, Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz held a late-night a lead over longtime Republican activist Allen Quist. Walz, a teacher and coach, has served in the House since 2007. Quist, a retired political science professor, was a state lawmaker in the 1980s.

-- Republican John Kline, the highest-ranking Minnesota congressman as chairman of the House education and labor committee, had a narrow lead over Democrat Mike Obermueller in the 2nd Congressional District, just south of Minneapolis and St. Paul. He served one term in the state House before losing in his second election.

-- Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, a former state House majority leader before heading to Congress in 2009, beat Democrat Brian Barnes, a business manager and a Navy Reserve veteran, in the western Twin Cities' 3rd Congressional District.

-- Democratic U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum easily beat Republican Tony Hernandez in the eastern Twin Cities' 4th Congressional District. McCollum, who has nearly 70 percent of the vote in unofficial early returns, 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. Fields is a South Bronx native who served 21 years as a Marine.

-- 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 raised in Brazil, Paraguay and Norway by Christian missionary parents. The Independence Party's Adam Steele of Bemidji also was in the race.

-- The most heated U.S. House race pitted first-term Rep. Chip Cravaack, a Republican, and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan in the 8th Congressional District. Cravaack surprised many in politics two years ago by beating longtime U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar. Nolan served in Congress more than 30 years ago.

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

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.