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St. Paul, Minn. — Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy received one of the largest ovations when he stepped to the podium to claim victory at the Republican election night party in Minnetonka.. Kennedy was engaged in a competitive and sometimes contentious race with DFLer Patty Wetterling.
It was the only Minnesota congressional race to receive national attention from both parties. Wetterling's name recognition and status on child protection issues put Kennedy in a difficult spot. He had to walk the delicate line of criticizing Wetterling and not crossing the line of being overly insensitive. Kennedy and the Republican National Congressional Committee used TV ads to portray Wetterling as soft on terrorism and a tax-and-spend liberal.
"This victory is what's good for Minnesota," Kennedy said. "We focused on issues. The voters said 'we want to talk about issues. We want to talk about ideas.' That's all our campaign talked about and I am committed to going back to Washington and to keep working hard and to make sure that we continue to grow jobs," Kennedy said.
Kennedy, who's often mentioned as a possible opponent to DFL Sen. Mark Dayton in 2006, didn't comment on the potential match up. He said he was more interested in celebrating his recent victory.
For her part, Wetterling says she doesn't know what she'll do now. She had hoped to celebrate her 55th birthday with a win on Election Day. Now, she says she'll likely continue her work as an advocate for missing kids. It's been her life's work since 1989 when her son, Jacob, went missing. He has never been found.
"I've learned to live my life on hope, and I believe that good things will happen," she told supporters. "I don't know what will be next. I still have connections to the missing childrens people, I still serve on the board for the national center and I was a trainer for Fox Valley, so I can go back to many of the things that I did, and I hope to further the message for a better, safer world for kids I know I'll do it someway."
The seven other members of Minnesota's congressional delegation won overwhelmingly. DFLers Betty McCollum, Jim Oberstar, Colin Peterson and Martin Sabo won their districts. John Kline, Gil Gutknecht and Jim Ramstad joined Kennedy in the GOP column.
Ramstad represents the western and some northern Twin Cities suburbs. He says his first priority is to encourage his fellow members to pass tougher anti-terrorism measures.
"We have to reorganize the intelligence community, replenish our human intelligence capabilities. We need a national intelligence director. We need to change the oversight functions so we have to pass the intelligence reorganization bill first in the lame-duck session," Ramstad said.
Ramstad says he hopes members of both parties will put their differences behind them and figure out ways of resolving their differences on health care, the economy and defense. But DFL Congresswoman Betty McCollum says it may be difficult considering the differences regarding the war in Iraq. McCollum, who represents St. Paul and some surrounding suburbs, says it will be difficult to agree on any spending measures as long as there's no exit strategy regarding the war.
"Iraq affects everything we do. It's a billion dollars a week. Here again a billion dollars a week that means that people go without health care. A billion dollars a week in Iraq. That means we're not putting what we need into homeland security, right here in Minnesota for our first responders. A billion dollars a week with no end in sight means that our children will not have the first class education that we should be focused on giving them," she said.
While all of the candidates say they hope to put their partisan differences behind them, it's likely that politics will continue to be on their minds. House members are up for re-election every two years and both parties are focusing on defeating an incumbent to give their party the edge in Minnesota.