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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Rural America helps GOP wave

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ST. PAUL -- Rural districts gave Republicans much of the boost they needed to take control of the U.S. House.

Bill Bishop and Julie Ardery of the Daily Yonder online newspaper, which covers rural issues, reported that "two-thirds of the 60 House seats switching from Democrat to Republican in this election were in the congressional districts with the most rural voters."

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Before Tuesday's election, nearly half of the 125 mostly rural districts were held by Democrats, a number that fell to just 22 after votes were counted. No rural districts went from Republican to Democrat.

Most of the seats Democrats lost were in the northern part of the country, like northeast Minnesota's 8th Congressional District where Chip Cravaack upset long-time U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar.

Governor has power

Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said the governor wields more power than the Legislature and that with both Republicans holding relatively thin legislative margins, he expects that will be even more true.

"I think that could change the way things work," said Marty, who lost this year's Democratic governor endorsement, his second defeat for the job.

Marty, a liberals' liberal, said that regardless of the issue, Democrats moved too cautiously the last two years, turning off supporters of the change President Barack Obama espoused while running for office and allowing Republicans to mobilize.

"The message has to be backed up by action and it wasn't always backed up by as bold action," he said. "People who are scared aren't looking for caution, they are looking for bold leadership."

He knows compromise

The most popular post-election quote came from Rep.-elect John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, when asked if the new Republican legislative majority can compromise with Democrat Mark Dayton if he ends up as governor.

"Compromise is what keeps me from sleeping on the couch every night," he shot back.

Dayton switches

The day after the election, Democrat Mark Dayton downplayed any plans to get involved in a recount in his race with Republican Tom Emmer.

But the very next day he hired three recount people.

His recount director is Ken Martin, who long has worked on Minnesota campaign. The chief counsel is Charlie Nauen, another Minnesotan. And Denise Cardinal of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota will be communications director.

The Republican Party hired a Washington, D.C. lawyer to lead its recount effort and possible court challenge.

Dayton careful

While some call Mark Dayton governor-elect, he is careful not to do so since a recount is probable.

A news release from his campaign began: "Mark Dayton, who received the most votes in Tuesday's Minnesota governor's race. ..." But he has been careful not to declare victory until a recount is finished.

Solon key

Mark Dayton gave his running mate credit for helping him get more votes than Tom Emmer.

Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon of Duluth worked northeast Minnesota areas hard, he said. "The strength Yvonne has in Duluth and St. Louis County ... was very important to us."

Many fall

Democrats who lost legislative seats Tuesday include the senator who just got $6.6 million for Wadena to plan its post-tornado rebuilding and the final World War II state representative.

Gretchen Hoffman beat Dan Skogen for the Senate seat that covers Wadena.

"People weren't happy with the way things were going," Skogen, DFL-Hewitt, said about the mood of the electorate. "That may have been the message -- 'we're not pleased.'"

Rep. Bernie Lieder, DFL-Crookston, was the final WWII veterans in the Legislature at age 87. He has been in the House since 1985.

Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook, who will lead Senate Democrats, said his caucus will have to lay off about 40 employees due to their smaller numbers and GOP taking control.

Fine by phone

Tickets that do not require court appearances may be paid by telephone or the Web.

Minnesota court officials announced that automated phone and online systems now accept credit card fine payments.

Payments can be made at (651) 281-3219 in the Twin Cities or (800) 657-3611 elsewhere, as well as www.mncourts.gov. Payment also still may be made at the courthouse where the ticket was issued or by mail.

"Centralizing and automating the processing of these payable citations will cut costs, improve service and increase revenue for state and local government," said State Court Administrator Sue K. Dosal. "It's just one of several ways we are using technology to increase our efficiency."

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co. Freelance reporter Andrew Tellijohn and Steve Schultz of the Wadena Pioneer Journal contributed to this report.

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