The downtown Minneapolis Hilton hotel became a scene of jubilation Tuesday night as a large crowd learned Gov. Mark Dayton will continue to lead Minnesota in his second term as governor.
The race concluded with Democratic-Farmer-Labor incumbent Dayton winning by a healthy 50.52 percent of the vote, surpassing Republican challenger Jeff Johnson’s 44.07 percent as of midnight press time.
“For the past four years I have stood up and spoken out for the causes that I believe in, and I have worked hard to make them happen,” Dayton said in his election night victory speech. “I promise you who supported me today that I will remain true to those causes and to my principles, always.”
The margin contrasts sharply with the 2010 race when Dayton was first elected, defeating Republican Tom Emmer by only 0.4 percent of votes.
“I think most analysts, say a year ago or so, might have predicted that this race would have been closer than it is, especially considering how close the election was in 2010,” said Eric Ostermeier, a research associate with the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School for Public Affairs
Ostermeier said the 2014 elections created a better political environment for Dayton, who has often held high approval ratings during his time in office.
He has advocated for issues like same-sex marriage, the online health care marketplace called MNsure and increasing the minimum wage.
Minnesota has seen lower unemployment rates since Dayton took office, which Ostermeier said gave him an edge in this election.
“[Dayton] has some good numbers that he can point to,” Ostermeier said.
Johnson would have had to run a “nearly flawless” campaign to bring in the votes, Ostermeier said.
“Right now I feel like we did everything we could,” Johnson said after the race was called Tuesday night. “I’m just going to wish the governor well.”
Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner, has also served in the Minnesota House of Representatives and unsuccessfully ran for state attorney general in 2006.
He spoke last week at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs and laid out his main election goals, which included addressing underemployment.
“Nobody who spends the time and money to get a college degree should have to worry about … whether they will ever be able to have not just a job, but a career,” Johnson previously told the Minnesota Daily.
Besides job creation, Johnson said his priorities were to close the state’s “embarrassing” K-12 achievement gap and to ensure Minnesota is effectively spending tax dollars.
Jeff Bakken, Johnson’s communication director, said his candidate focused on encouraging as many people to cast a vote because he said the results will be “all about turnout.”
Dayton has made college affordability a priority in recent years, which was why many University students said he earned their votes.
“Lower tuition costs to make [college] affordable, that was my major [reason for voting],” said biology, society and the environment junior Sydney Smutzler.
To combat the rising costs of college, Dayton and the state Legislature approved a tuition freeze in 2013 for the University’s undergraduate students who pay in-state tuition.
For this spring’s legislative session, the University has requested that state leaders provide funding to continue that freeze for resident undergraduate students and expand it to include a similar freeze for graduate students.
Journalism junior Malory Vague said Dayton’s focus on freezing costs for students — among other issues like same-sex marriage — was part of the reason she voted for him.
“That’s the big things that I’m passionate about and that I vote on,” she said.