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Dayton Ousts Grams from Senate
By Michael Khoo
November 8, 2000
Part of MPR's coverage of Campaign 2000
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DFLer Mark Dayton is headed to Washington after defeating incumbent Republican Rod Grams. Unofficial returns show Dayton with 49 percent of the vote and Grams with 43 percent. Independence Party candidate James Gibson finished a distant third with six percent, but enough to keep major-party status.

Mark Dayton claims victory in the Senate race. Listen to the speech.

DAYTON EDGED OUT GRAMS to claim the same U.S. Senate seat he had run for 18 years ago. Although the race had several bitter turns and although each camp accused the other of negative, personal attacks, Dayton told cheering supporters that he was ready to bridge the divides and represent all Minnesotans.

"No matter what your political party or personal philosophy, no matter who you voted for today or even whether you voted at all, I'll work for you," Dayton said. "When, next January, I become Sen. Mark Brandt Dayton, please call me Mark. Because I'm your public servant. I'll work for you."

Less than 30 minutes after the polls closed, most news organizations had already declared Dayton the winner. Grams, however, refused to concede defeat, saying he would wait until all returns had been counted. But appearing shortly before midnight, he acknowledged his prospects seemed dim.

"I want to say I've been so proud and honored that the state of Minnesota allowed me the privilege to serve it in the United States Congress for the past eight years," he told supporters. "I always said I hope that I've done the job that Minnesotans have asked me to do."

Late into the morning, Sen. Rod Grams said he wasn't ready to concede. Listen to his speech.
Independent polls had shown Dayton leading Grams since the beginning of the general election cycle, and Dayton seemed to score particularly well on the issues of prescription drug costs and health care. He also painted Grams' proposal to privatize Social Security as "risky" and "extreme." But Grams, still not conceding defeat, said Dayton's main advantage had been his ability to self-finance an expensive race.

"In a normal race, this wouldn't have been this close at all, I believe, because my record would have been there and I wouldn't have somebody spending $20 million to lie about what I've done and distort it," said Grams.

Financial disclosure forms show Dayton's personal expenditures closer to $11 million, but final figures may be higher. Grams' campaign spent roughly $7 million, but that amount doesn't include money funnelled through the state party and National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Dayton downplayed the importance of money in the race, but pledged to support campaign finance reform once he's sworn in in January.

Independence Party candidate James Gibson concedes. Listen to interview.
"I'll do my best when I get out to Washington to make these campaigns less expensive and develop a system of financing, like we have here in Minnesota, where anybody can run and afford to do so," said Dayton.

Independence Party candidate James Gibson finished a distant third, polling only six percent. But that margin is enough for the party to retain its major party status. Gibson said that allowed him to claim a victory of sorts.

"I think we've added some real legitimacy to the Independence Party," he said. "We didn't really have to win to do that. We just had to make a good showing and a solid showing and run issues-oriented campaigns, solid campaigns.We've done that."

Holding on to major party status means the IP will be eligible for public financing during the 2002 gubernatorial election. But the state's fourth major party - the Constitution Party - slipped back to the minor ranks. Candidate David Swan received only one percent of the vote.

Michael Khoo covers politics for Minnesota Public Radio. You can reach him via e-mail at