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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Democrats make big gains

By Matthew Stone

The country’s political fortunes changed on Tuesday and Macalester students did not let the moment pass them by.Democrats in Minnesota swept most statewide offices save for the state’s top executive post, for which the race hung in the balance until the early morning hours on Wednesday. Republican incumbent Governor Tim Pawlenty eventually edged out the DFL hopeful Attorney General Mike Hatch.

The DFL increased its margin of control in the State Senate and gained control of the State House. The party’s in-state gains reflected a national trend that saw voters award control of the House and Senate to Democrats.

Come January, former Minnesota Nurses Association organizer Erin Murphy will be among the ranks of new DFL members in the Minnesota State House. Murphy won the race to represent House District 64A, which includes Macalester’s campus.

In her campaign to replace outgoing DFL Minority Leader Matt Entenza ’83, Murphy defeated Green Party candidate and Macalester alumnus Jesse Mortenson ’05, and Republican candidate Kirstin Beach.

Murphy received 66.36 percent of the vote in the district. Beach placed second with 18.26 percent of the vote. Mortenson received 15.51 percent of votes, according to tallies by the Secretary of State’s office.

“I feel delighted,” Murphy said of her victory on Tuesday night.

Murphy said her first priorities as a state representative would be a reform of the “healthcare delivery system” and a new energy policy for Minnesota.

“We have to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels,” Murphy said in an interview at the DFL’s victory party held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown St. Paul.

After a day of last-minute efforts to boost voter turnout, Murphy said that she was encouraged by conversations she had throughout the day with voters.

“They have been determined to make change happen,” she said.

Mortenson, in an interview on Wednesday, spoke of a silver lining in his third place loss.

“I think it’s encouraging that even in a year where Green Party and third-party fortunes have fallen statewide, we still managed to gain ground here in St. Paul,” he said.

Mortenson said he had been holding out for at least a second-place finish, especially after achieving some firsts for a Green Party campaign in the city. He pointed to an extensive door-knocking operation, the campaign’s ability to send a mailing to voters in the entire district, and $16,000 in funds raised.

Mortenson did place second in Macalester’s precinct, earning 36.18 percent of votes, behind Murphy’s 56.42 percent.

On campus, Tuesday marked the culmination of energy that had begun to grow months ago for this fall’s races.

The Macalester Democrats directed get-out-the-vote operations throughout the day from a second-floor room in the Campus Center. Those involved staged visibility on street corners and bridges for their preferred candidates and knocked on doors in dorms and in the four precincts where most off-campus Macalester students reside.

“Everyone’s been really jazzed about today,” Amy Hill ’09 said on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s the culmination of all the hard work to get everyone out to vote.”

Students gathered for a variety of formal and informal election return-watching parties on Tuesday night as results began to trickle in from across the country.

Sara Schultz ’09, who works off campus at the West Side Citizens’ Organization for her work-study position, spent her day knocking on doors in St. Paul’s west side, known for its historically low voter turnout. She said at least four other Macalester students joined those nonpartisan efforts.

Schultz said the get-out-the-vote effort was challenging.

“One of the things that was difficult is a lot of people can’t vote,” Schultz said, noting the west side’s large immigrant population.

The efforts may have been fruitful, Schultz said. By 9 a.m. on Tuesday, for example, 175 voters had already appeared at the polls in one precinct well known for low voter turnout.

“That was really promising,” Schultz said.

The Secretary of State’s office had not certified voter turnout figures by press time.

Tuesday’s elections marked two firsts for Minnesota. The state, for the first time, elected a woman to the United States Senate. Hennepin County Prosecutor Amy Klobuchar defeated Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy with 58 percent of the vote to Kennedy’s 38 percent.

In the state’s Fifth Congressional District, DFL State Representative Keith Ellison won the race to replace outgoing Representative Martin Sabo, who is retiring after 28 years in the House. Ellison is the first African-American Minnesota has sent to Congress. Ellison will also be the first Muslim to serve in Congress.

Ellison won his race with 56 percent of the vote, defeating Republican rival Alan Fine and Independence Party opponent Tammy Lee, who each attracted 21 percent of the vote.

Congresswoman Betty McCollum easily won reelection to her seat in Minnesota’s Fourth Congressional District with nearly 70 percent of the vote. Republican rival Obi Sium received 30 percent of votes in the district.

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