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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Amendments, not candidates, top Minn. ticket

  • For either to pass, supporters had to get "yes" votes from more than half of all voters in the election; ballots where voters skipped the question count against it.
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  • Dual bids to amend the Minnesota Constitution trumped top-of-the-ticket candidates as the focal point Tuesday in an election season where the state's campaigns for president and Senate were quieter than in the past.
    Minnesota got a late rush of attention from the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney after a poll showed the race tightening here. But for most of the summer and fall, Minnesotans watched as the race played out heavily in the neighboring battlegrounds of Iowa and Wisconsin.
    Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar's bid for a second term was also sleepy, as she swamped her Republican opponent Kurt Bills in fundraising and poll standing. That left the most intense and expensive statewide campaigns this year around the two amendments.
    One ballot measure would add a gay marriage ban to the constitution. The other would require people to show valid photo identification to vote in future elections. For either to pass, supporters had to get "yes" votes from more than half of all voters in the election; ballots where voters skipped the question count against it.
    Opponents of the marriage amendment were flush with money, outraising supporters by about two-to-one. But backers had history on their side: no gay marriage ban had ever been defeated at the hands of any state's voters.
    Photo ID requirements for voters are spreading through the country, but only Mississippi has had one enacted through a constitutional amendment process when it passed there in 2011. Should Minnesota's prevail, state lawmakers would fill in the details of implementation before it takes effect.
    Voters were also deciding who would control the Legislature, with Democrats and Republicans in a district-by-district tug for House and Senate majorities. Republicans control both chambers, but Democrats hoped they could retake control they lost two years before.
    Legislative hopefuls were running in 201 freshly reconfigured districts, a result of the once-per-decade redistricting process. But few contests were deemed competitive.
    The goal was for each party was to get at least 68 House seats and 34 Senate seats, the numbers giving them respective majorities.
    The outcome loomed large over the policy agenda of Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who is halfway through a term already beset by a government shutdown after Republicans refused his call for higher taxes on the wealthy. In the session starting in January, Dayton and lawmakers will confront another steep budget deficit.
    Minnesota voters had a small but important role in determining the power structure in Washington as well.
    Klobuchar's Senate race was one of 33 nationally. But Bills, a one-term state legislator, struggled for attention, money and voter support. Neither national party considered the race competitive. Democrats were banking on Klobuchar's return in the broader contest to maintain their majority, and she's likely to be in a position to continue building a national profile.
    Page 2 of 2 - Republicans were defending four U.S. House seats in Minnesota that help make up their majority. First-term Rep. Chip Cravaack was facing the strongest challenge, battling former Rep. Rick Nolan in defense of the northern Minnesota seat he snatched two years ago from former Rep. Jim Oberstar. The GOP was favored to retain seats held by Reps. Michele Bachmann, John Kline and Erik Paulsen. Democrats hold the other four Minnesota seats, none of which were viewed to be in jeopardy.
    The White House race barely encroached on Minnesota until the campaign's closing days. While Obama or Romney themselves didn't campaign here in the final stretch, the state saw visits from Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan as well as former President Bill Clinton, a top Obama surrogate.
    Obama was looking to grab Minnesota's 10 electoral votes for a second time. No Republican has carried Minnesota since Richard Nixon in 1972.

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