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How did you vote? Election yields some surprises, close contests

Al Edenloff | Echo Press Election judges from one of Douglas County's 38 precincts brought in the ballots to the Douglas County Courthouse Tuesday night. Final results were tabulated around midnight, a fast pace compared to previous elections.

Tuesday's election in Douglas County sprang a few surprises.

If the final vote stands, Douglas County has a new county attorney, Chad Larson, who narrowly defeated 12-year incumbent Chris Karpan, 7,340 votes to 7,171 - a margin of just 1.02 percent. (See related story.)

Another challenger was victorious in a hotly contested Alexandria City Council race. Virgil Batesole unseated incumbent Ward 1 council member Cindy Bigger. (See related story.)

The race for Evansville mayor came down to one vote. Ron Buse is the unofficial winner with 116 votes to Terry Aasness' 115 votes.

All three incumbent Douglas County commissioners up for election prevailed. Two of them, Paul Anderson and Norm Salto won by close margins and the third, Dan Olson, held off a write-in challenge. (See related story.)

The local turnout for the election was 67.4 percent - 15,669 of the county's 23,235 voters went to the polls. That's not as high as the 88 percent turnout for the 2008 presidential election but it was higher than the statewide turnout of about 58 percent.

Locally, the election process was smooth, according to Vicki Doehling, Douglas County elections administrator. No machines broke down and there were no complaints of intimidation or problems at the polls.

"Overall it went very well," she said. "We had great weather. The turnout could have been better, but it was consistent with statewide turnout."

Douglas County joined the tide of Republican success across the country. They favored the Republican candidate for every state office:

• Governor - Tom Emmer picked up 52 percent of the vote here, crushing DFLer Mark Dayton, who received 35 percent. Statewide, Dayton won by less than 9,000 votes and a recount will take place.

• Auditor - Republican Pat Anderson rode to a 57 percent to 39 percent win over DFL incumbent Rebecca Otto here. Statewide, Otto prevailed with 48 percent of the vote.

• Secretary of State - Republican challenger Dan Severson was the clear winner over DFL incumbent Mark Ritchie, winning with 54 percent of the vote. Statewide, Ritchie was returned to office with 49 percent of the vote.

• Attorney General - Republican challenger Chris Barden was preferred by 48 percent of Douglas County voters over DFL incumbent Lori Swanson, who received 44 percent of the vote. Statewide, Swanson was re-elected with 53 percent of the vote.

U.S. Representative Collin Peterson, a DFLer in the 7th District, managed to carry Douglas County but his margin of victory was tighter. Peterson picked up 48 percent of the vote to Lee Byberg's 41 percent while district-wide, he received 55 percent.

For perhaps the first time, Douglas County will have only Republicans representing them in both the Minnesota House and Senate.

Republican Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria easily won re-election in District 11, receiving 70 percent of the vote in Douglas County. District-wide, his victory over DFL challenger Jim Thoreen was closer. He garnered 65 percent of the vote to Thoreen's 35 percent.

"I've always said that Douglas County has been a great place to work," Ingebrigtsen said Wednesday morning while picking up his campaign signs. "People know that they can contact me and that pays dividends."

The election, he said, showed that voters were determined to give the country a new direction. "Voters are serious about government living within its means," he said. "They're the ones paying the bills and they're serious about that...Now the ball is in our court and we'd better make it right."

Ingebrigtsen said he's excited about the Senate coming under the Republicans' control for the first time since party designations were established nearly 40 years ago. He's looking forward to the committees he'll be appointed to, which may include public safety and natural resources.

Republican Representative Torrey Westrom, who represents the western half of Douglas County in District 11A, received 67 percent of the county's votes compared to first-time DFL challenger Bennett Smith's 27 percent. Independence Party candidate Dave Holman received 6 percent of the vote. District-wide, Westrom received 62 percent of the vote. "I'm grateful to all the voters," Westrom said. "It's always humbling to have them place that trust in you. It's a serious job with a serious task ahead."

Westrom, too, believes that voters were sending a strong message for lawmakers to be more fiscally conservative. He said it's important for Republicans to stand up against special interest groups and implement real reforms. One of his ideas is to use the closed private prison in Appleton to house state prisoners.

Westrom said local government aid for rural areas can be protected by holding the Twin Cities and Duluth more accountable for their spending. He said their LGA should be denied if they plan to use it for firefighter salaries instead of relying on volunteer departments like smaller cities do.

In Minnesota House District 11B, which has been represented by DFLer Mary Ellen Otremba from 1998 until her retirement this past legislative session, voters gave the nod to Republican Mary Franson of Alexandria.

Franson picked up 52 percent of the vote in Douglas County to DFLer Amy Hunter's 28 percent. Independence candidate Bert Pexsa received 20 percent of the vote. District-wide, Franson prevailed with 49.8 percent of the vote.

"I believe the tax-and-spend policies weren't resonating with the people," Franson said Wednesday. "We need more jobs to get the economy moving again. Simply raising taxes in a time of recession - people weren't enjoying that. People are living on a budget and the government needs to live on a budget as well."

Franson listed a few other factors that helped her win: the fact that the district leans conservative and the endorsements she received from Minnesota Citizens Concerned For Life and the National Rifle Association.

Franson, who ran a daycare in Alexandria, hopes to land a committee assignment in early childhood education, along with agriculture.

As for celebrating her win, Franson spent most of Wednesday cleaning her house, a task she put aside during her busy campaign. "It's just another day," she said. "I'm still the same person."

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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