By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN Tom Emmer of Delano said, even though he wasn’t elected as Minnesota’s next governor, he is very proud of the way he ran his campaign and presented himself to the state of Minnesota.
He understands “negative works,” but in speaking to reporters gathered on his front lawn Wednesday, he said, “so does the truth.”
“We did it the right way,” Emmer said, adding that he can always look at his kids and tell them it was handled with class and integrity.
Emmer conceded the race to become Minnesota’s next governor to Mark Dayton following the conclusion of a statewide recount process. Election night saw Dayton and Emmer separated by about 8,700 votes, which fell into the criteria for an automatic recount.
“Jacquie and I and our family started this journey 17 months ago, and it has been absolutely one of the best experiences of our lives,” Emmer, 49, said Wednesday. “Traveling this state, we’ve been constantly reminded of the goodness and kindness of Minnesotans and the genuine love we all have for this great state.”
The Emmers have met people from Warroad to Zumbrota, Winona, East Grand Forks, Duluth, Worthington, Bemidji, Owatonna, and everywhere in between.
“We met construction workers, truck drivers; we met college professors and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and we all have one thing in common a love for Minnesota and a fundamental desire to keep this state the best place in the world to live, work, and raise a family,” Emmer, the father of seven, said. “I share that love of Minnesota and its people, and I have worked to serve this state to the best of my abilities.”
Emmer said he spent the past 16 months working to become governor because he has a vision of how best to meet the challenges of the next 40 years.
“I put forth that vision, offered it to Minnesotans, and asked them to put their faith in us to do what is right for this state, and, as you know, almost a million Minnesotans agreed with us on where this state needs to go,” Emmer said. “Regardless of the outcome, we can be extremely proud of what we accomplished. Against all odds, a political outsider, a family man with a small-business background, secured a major party endorsement and ran on a populous message that government must be redesigned and reformed to serve the people, and not the other way around.”
He said his campaign started in “virtual obscurity” and came within about 8,700 votes of accomplishing what many predicted was not possible a common sense conservative winning the governor’s race in Minnesota on the message of smaller government, individual liberty, and economic freedom.
“This is a testament to the people that encouraged us, supported us, and who worked so hard for us over the past several months,” he added. “I cannot begin to thank everyone personally. The list is simply too long.”
Emmer did thank former campaign manager David Fitzsimmons of Cokato, and “everyone else who was there from the beginning.”
He also thanked Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Tony Sutton and his wife, Bridget, and running mate Annette Meeks and her husband, Jack.
“Most of all, I want to thank my family and my incredible wife, Jacquie. If there is one regret we should all have, it is that this state will not experience Jacquie as the first lady,” Emmer said.
He said Minnesotans made their choice, by however thin of a margin, and he respects that choice.
“Now is the time for all of us to come together and do what’s best for Minnesota,” Emmer said, reflecting on the need for confidence in the election system and the outcomes.
“At the same time, it is imperative we allow the next legislature and governor to move forward with the people’s business the business of governing the state,” Emmer added.
A recent Minnesota Supreme Court ruling regarding election reconciliation left open the possibility Emmer could have challenged the election. He said, if he had contested it, it probably would have carried over into 2011, and current Governor Tim Pawlenty would have been able to remain in office and work with a Republican-controlled senate and legislature.
“I do not believe a delay in seating the next governor will help to unite us or move our state forward,” Emmer said, but noted he would not be surprised if citizens pursue claims to address the integrity of the state election system.
“It will not be an election contest, and I will not be involved,” Emmer said. “Instead, I will devote my time to create public awareness as to these issues and the need for election reform, including, but not necessarily limited to requiring a photo ID when voting. In the meantime, Mark Dayton is going to be seated as the next governor of the State of Minnesota, and it is our job to make sure that he can be the best governor that he can possibly be.”
He said that doesn’t mean there may not be disagreement, but said it does mean giving Dayton and his administration the respect he deserves.
“He was elected to be the governor of the State of Minnesota we congratulate him and we offer to help him in any way we can,” Emmer concluded in his prepared remarks.
Emmer also fielded a number of questions from reporters and made several jokes about the weather and his future which, at this time, seems uncertain.
“This is my kind of weather,” the hockey aficionado said. “There’s not a mosquito flying anywhere in the state of Minnesota today.”
Immediate plans include working on the family hockey rink in the backyard, and perhaps becoming involved in the local Lions Club.
“I think the Lions Club has an opening,” he joked about his political future. “I never would have guessed this is where life would have led us, and I’m not going to predict where it’s going to go from here.”
He said he knows he is married to the best woman possible and said he has a great family and will “see what the rest of life has to offer.”
About a half-hour before he addressed the media Wednesday morning, Emmer said he spoke with Dayton and told him of his plans to concede the election.
“Mark Dayton needs to get started on the business of governing Minnesota,” Emmer said. “We had a fairly good relationship, I would suggest, throughout the entire election process. He was a gentleman to Jacquie and myself, and I hope he would say the same thing about us. He offered to go out to lunch in the next couple weeks and we may take him up on that. I invited him over to skate on the rink in the backyard. It’s time to recognize the next governor of the State of Minnesota will be Mark Dayton.”
Emmer said he is “satisfied,” and said there is a time one has to take the experience for what it’s been and move forward.
“It’s time for us to be gracious the process has run according to the law,” he said. “Today is about closure. This chapter closes and a new chapter begins. Minnesota has a new set of leaders. I’m honored to have been part of the process.”
He said he hopes he’s had a little bit of an impact on the message of election reform, and admitted, “nobody ever expected us to be here today, let alone through this whole process . . . let’s get on with the business of governing Minnesota and making it better for everyone.”
Others weigh in
Later Wednesday afternoon, Dayton was certified as Minnesota’s next governor, and said, “I salute Representative Emmer, who by his concession this morning re-affirmed the essential principle that in our democracy, there can be a close election, which is re-examined and recounted carefully; yet then, all accept its result so that our democracy can continue to function. That is a profoundly important legacy of your campaign, Representative Emmer, for which all of us owe you our respect and our gratitude.”
Dayton pledged to work together to find both the best ideas and agreement to grow Minnesota’s economy, create jobs, support small businesses, and reform government.
Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Tony Sutton and Deputy Chairman Michael Brodkorb said, “Tom Emmer and Annette Meeks have served Minnesotans with great distinction for many years. As conservative champions of lower taxes, reform, and smaller, sensible government, Tom and Annette waged a principled and optimistic campaign that Minnesotans can be proud of.
“While Tom may be conceding the governor’s race, his ideas that government must live within its means won the day as he led the ticket that took control of the state house and the state senate for the Republican Party.
“His message of smaller, sensible government will be what guides the legislature and is the political reality that the incoming governor will have to recognize. On behalf of the Republican Party of Minnesota, we wish Tom, Annette, and their wonderful families all the best in their future endeavors.”
Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch (R-Buffalo) said, “I would like to congratulate Rep. Emmer for all the hard work that he has done over the course of his campaign for governor.
“The Emmer campaign fought a tough race and should hold their heads high despite the results of the legislatively mandated recount.
“The Minnesota Senate is prepared to work with Governor-elect Dayton to confront the economic challenges we face by promoting policies to foster private sector job growth and economic development, without raising taxes on Minnesota families and job providers.”