ST. PAUL (AP) -- U.S. Rep. David Minge conceded defeat Tuesday to Republican businessman Mark Kennedy, a political novice who beat the four-term Minnesota Democrat by a razor-thin margin.
It was one of two House races in the country that were still unsettled. Election officials in Michigan are recounting ballots in an equally tight contest.
In Minnesota's 2nd District, the certified election tally gave Kennedy a 155-vote victory. Minge pressed for a recount and, as he withdrew, his and Kennedy's lawyers were in a Wright County courtroom where a judge was considering 350 disputed ballots out of more than 275,000 cast.
But the pile of disputed ballots, which the judge began considering Monday, dwindled to a number that made a Minge win improbable. Minge asked that his recount lawsuit be dismissed.
"Under the most optimistic scenario we could construct, we would finish 50 votes down," Minge said at a news conference, flanked by about a dozen supporters. At times, Minge's voice quivered with emotion and his eyes welled with tears.
"I congratulate Mark Kennedy on his success," Minge said. "I've talked to him on the telephone this morning and extended my best wishes."
Minge, a 58-year-old lawyer from rural Montevideo, was one of only two Democratic incumbents to lose his House seat. Kennedy's win gives Republicans a 221-212 edge with two independents.
Kennedy has been through freshmen orientation and was preparing a transition team under the assumption that the Election Day figures would stand. Spokesman Jeff Bakken said Kennedy was "obviously thrilled with the outcome" and he was ready to "hit the ground running. We're excited and looking forward to serving."
Kennedy, 43, of Watertown, ran a campaign with aggressive advertising and numerous appearances in the mostly rural towns of a district that stretches from the western Minneapolis suburbs south to Iowa and South Dakota.
His campaign slogan was "Kennedy Means Business," which hit on his experience as a former chief financial officer for Department 56 and Shopko Stores and a former corporate and international finance director for Pillsbury.
Unlike Minge's previous challengers, Kennedy was an adept fund-raiser and was able to dip into his own pocket to pay for TV ads.
Kennedy also benefitted from a strong top-of-the-ticket showing. Republicans George W. Bush and Rod Grams carried the district in the presidential and Senate races. Grams lost the race to Democrat Mark Dayton.
In Congress, Minge was a self-described "Blue Dog," a group of about 20 moderate to conservative Democrats who tend to focus on fiscal issues. Back home, he was known to campaign by bike at election time.
Minge said his preference is to stay in Minnesota, but he wants to remain active in national policy regarding conservation and other environmental matters. He did not rule out a future run for office. "I've saved my signs," he said. "We have some buttons left."
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