Mark Dayton predicted to win, but Margaret Anderson Kelliher hasn't conceded

Mark Dayton isn't quite the DFL nominee yet.
Mark Dayton isn't quite the DFL nominee yet.

You might have thought you would go to bed last night or at least wake up this morning knowing who won the DFL primary for governor. But this is Minnesota, where we like to take our sweet time with elections.

All indications are that former senator Mark Dayton won yesterday's vote. The AP and Star Tribune have called the race for Dayton, and the Secretary of State's official tally, as of early this morning, showed him leading Margaret Anderson Kelliher by more than 1,600 votes, with 90 percent of precincts reporting. Many predict that margin will grow.

But Dayton wasn't ready to call the race over last night. "We've been told that we've won," he told the assembled supporters and press at his spartan campaign headquarters in St. Paul. "But until we've heard from Speaker Kelliher, we are not going to declare victory."

But having lead the tally for most of the night, and trailing by only a few thousand votes after midnight, Kelliher wasn't prepared to give up. She stayed out of sight of her DFL supporters gathered at Jax Cafe in Minneapolis, appearing only briefly after midnight to say a few words that didn't sound much like a concession: "It's been a long night and it's going to be an even longer night," she told the crowd. "There are still some numbers to come in and we're optimistic about that."

Kelliher's early lead was established shortly after the polls closed at 8 o'clock. Hennepin and Ramsey counties finished their counts quickly, and handed Kelliher an initial margin of some 18,000 votes. But from that point forward, the tide turned slowly and inexorably in Dayton's direction. Dayton supporters, dismayed by his early setback, gradually became more relaxed and even celebratory as one opponent, Matt Entenza, conceded, and precinct after precinct outstate cut into Kelliher's margin, a handful of votes at a time.

"I knew all along he was going to win," said Jean Kyle, a volunteer for Dayton, "It looked tough there for a little bit, but I believed."

The projected final tally will almost certainly stretch Dayton's margin of victory beyond the threshold required to avoid a recount. But it may take a while for that final tally to arrive, which raises the question of whether Kelliher will concede in time to hold the long-promised unity rally for all the DFL candidates this morning. Dayton said he will need the support of both of his primary opponents if he is to beat Republican nominee Tom Emmer in the general election.

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