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Kennedy In, Minge Out in Second District
By Michael Khoo
December 12, 2000
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Democratic Congressman David Minge has conceded the second district race to Republican challenger Mark Kennedy. Minge's announcement brings to an end almost two weeks of ballot recounting.

Listen onlineto Mark Kennedy's news conference, held on December 12, 2000.
MINGE REQUESTED a manual recount of second district ballots after state certified totals showed him trailing Kennedy by only 155 votes out of nearly 300,000 cast. The four-term congressman says that at the beginning of the process, the campaign remained guardedly optimistic about reversing the slim margin.

"You wish to meet everyone's expectations of success and continuation on our work on a whole host and variety of issues," Minge said. "Yet at the same time, you have to be realistic and you have to caution people, 'Look, this can go either way. We're down. It certainly is a little less than 50-50 chance of success.'"

The recount narrowed the margin slightly, and a state district court judge began sorting through several hundred ballots still in dispute. But Minge attorney Alan Weinblatt says it eventually became clear the contested ballots would not be enough to close the gap.

"The conclusion became apparent that if an overwhelming majority of the challenges had been resolved in his favor, that still would not have been enough to overcome the remaining 140-some vote margin," Weinblatt said.

Kennedy, a Watertown businessman, is one of only two Republicans to unseat a Democratic congressman this year. But he says he'll work with Minge to ensure a smooth transition. He says the slim margin of victory won't undermine his success in the district, which covers southwestern Minnesota.

"My goal is to reach out to the people throughout the district, to understand all their concerns as I have been for the last year. To try to be responsive to those concerns. And I'll be working as hard as if I had won by 50,000 votes or 150 to 200."

Kennedy's win gives Republicans a 221-212 vote edge over Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, with two Independents. Those results depend on another recount still underway in Michigan. Kennedy attorney Tony Trimble says with power so evenly split in Washington, every seat becomes crucial. Despite the political pressures, Trimble says the election process worked smoothly.

Listen onlineto David Minge's news conference, held on December 12, 2000.
"Even though it's so heavily coveted, no one attempted to manufacture, let alone find, an election irregularity that would cast doubt upon any one person, whether it be an election judge or a voter or a campaign staff person or certainly not the candidates," said Trimble.

Kennedy has already completed freshman orientation in Washington. He says he's talked to congressional leaders about a possible seat on an agriculture committee and is in the process of hiring key staff members.

"This allows us to wrap that up and get ready to go to hit the ground running January 3rd. We've been on that process, but, yes, we'll be picking up the pace a little bit now that we have a final determination," he said.

Minge says he wants to be remembered for his fiscal discipline and work on conservation projects. And he says he doesn't want to dwell on how he might have managed his campaign differently.

"Trying to analyze a campaign and what's in the past doesn't help me at this point. I've got to get on with my life and so does everyone else," Minge said.

Minge says he wants to remain involved in conservation issues. However, he doesn't rule out a future run for office, joking that he's holding on to his lawn signs and campaign buttons.

Michael Khoo covers politics for Minnesota Public Radio. Reach him via e-mail at

Commentary: Where Winners Win