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COL Incumbents fare poorly as voters opt for change

There is no other way to see it. There has been a sea change in Olmsted County. For the first time in three decades, the DFL has won legislative races, claiming two House seats and coming within a whisker of a third.

Like the crispness of today's bluebird morning, change was clearly in the air. Rochester voters elected a new city council president. City voters accepted Dennis Hanson's growth-based campaign and gave him the reins of city government to facilitate both business and residential development.

While the succession of Hanson over John Hunziker was a call for a new direction, it was not the shocking outcome secured by Tina Liebling in her House victory over Carla Nelson and Andy Welti's win over Bill Kuisle.

Republican Fran Bradley managed to defeat Kim Norton, but it was by the narrowest of margins. There is only one word for what the DFL accomplished in Rochester and Olmsted County: Remarkable. It was the same across the state.

State voters gave the DFL a remarkable resurgence in the House. When the smoke cleared, the DFL had gained 13 seats, leaving the GOPwith a 68-66 advantage. If a mandate can be had without securing a majority, the DFL gains are just that. The practical outcome of the nearly even split will be one of compromise for either party hoping to move legislation forward.

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To call the 3 million-plus edge President Bush had over Sen. John Kerry in the popular vote a mandate is would be an overreach, yet this margin is a clear indicator of national support for Bush's past performance and his campaign.

Kerry's decision to step aside early today was the right one. He saved the nation the turmoil it suffered in the 2000 election.

Kerry took a page out of then-Vice President Richard Nixon's decision not to challenge John Kennedy's ever-so-slim margin of victory in 1960. Nixon made the right decision then for the betterment of the country, and Kerry has done the same.

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