Mike Hatch DFL loyalists will pin his defeat on the Independence Party, and it's undoubtedly true that Peter Hutchinson sucked more votes from Hatch than from Pawlenty. But the attorney general has no one but himself to blame for becoming a two-time gubernatorial loser. The GOP spent the entire campaign attempting to paint a portrait of Hatch as a blustering bully temperamentally unfit for the state's top office. The DFLer cagily evaded this caricature—until the last week of the campaign. His Howard Beal impersonation in response to the E85 gasoline fracas tanked an eminently winnable race.
Judi Dutcher Many Democrats have spent the last four years ruing the day they passed over Dutcher for fusty Roger Moe as their gubernatorial nominee. The veteran legislator's dire showing was seen by many as a nadir of sorts for the tendency by DFLers to endorse whichever contender has spent the most hours shaking sweaty palms at caucuses over politically viable candidates. But Dutcher's clueless, valley-girl response to a reporter's query about E85 gasoline in the waning days of a tight campaign helped send the DFL gubernatorial ticket into a death spiral.
Mark KennedyPerhaps Kennedy and Rudy Boschwitz can start some kind of plaid-shirt retail operation for aspiring right-wing faux-populists. The fundamentalist Forrest Gump impersonator would get a pass if he'd kept the margin of defeat in a respectable range. But losing by 20 percentage points after being cherry-picked by national Republican brass to take on a race initially deemed one of the most likely GOP pickups in the country? Any future attempt by Kennedy to run for statewide office will be greeted with about as much enthusiasm as this year's sad run by Rod Grams, who has kept lurching around scaring people since his own political death six years ago.
Mary KiffmeyerCall us cold-hearted, but there was no sweeter sight than watching Kiffmeyer break down in tears while conceding on Tuesday night. Especially after hearing that she'd sat angrily sulking while the other two Republican candidates for constitutional office—Jeff Johnson and Patricia Anderson—gracefully conceded defeat. It's somehow apropos that the woman charged with overseeing Minnesota's elections, and who once attempted to have terrorist-warning signs posted in polling places across the state, refused to read the electoral writing on the wall. What's more, it was an all-too-fitting grace note when a Hennepin County District Court judge rebuked her on Election Day for attempting to disenfranchise college students during the last election that she'll ever oversee.
Coleen RowleyEven a tidal wave couldn't lift this leaking rowboat. Despite the best climate for Democratic challengers in more than two decades and an opponent who's been a staunch supporter of George W. Bush's disastrous policies in Iraq, the former FBI official-turned-9/11 whistleblower lost by 16 points. We'll let John Kline's chief of staff, Steve Sutton, handle the gloating on this one. "The reason she underperformed is, quite frankly, she's just a very weak candidate. Unorganized, uninformed, unprepared. I think voters were shocked at how little she knew, the depth of her knowledge, how thin it was on these issues. Even on Iraq, which was her number-one issue, she was unable to really articulate a coherent plan." All in all, a spectacular fall from grace for the 2002 Time person of the year, an honor she shared with two other publicized whistleblowers.
Patty WetterlingJacob's mommy got a pass two years ago. She ran a vigorous, closer-than-expected campaign in the state's most conservative legislative district. Her vapid policy pronouncements and lack of any core philosophy were easy to overlook when compared with dim bulb Mark Kennedy. But this time around, the child-safety advocate ran a disgraceful, dishonest campaign. Facing off against über-Christian Michele Bachmann, Wetterling attempted to tar her opponent as a tax-and-spend liberal intent on liberating all sex offenders and providing them with government-financed lifetime supplies of crystal meth. Predictably, the disingenuous attacks backfired. In a race that just two weeks prior to the election was polling as a dead heat, Bachmann won by eight points.
Dean Johnson: In a year where Democrats romped in state legislative races, the most conspicuous exception was the senate majority leader. Christian crusaders pulled out their pitchforks and went after Johnson for his refusal to allow a floor vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Led by Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage, the homophobes gleefully assailed the pastor and onetime Republican. That grassroots work, coupled with Johnson's obfuscations on the issue, was sufficient to kill off Johnson's 24-year legislative career.
Phil KrinkieThe cranky fiscal conservative from Shoreview never recovered from losing the Republican endorsement in the Sixth Congressional District race to Michele Bachmann. In lieu of campaigning vigorously for a ninth term in the state House, Krinkie largely sat on the sidelines. The end result: a 55-vote loss to DFL contender Paul Gardner. Krinkie had become something of an anomaly in the GOP anyway. He never displayed sufficient fervor for saving fetuses and demonizing homosexuals to rise up the ranks of today's Republican Party.