MANKATO — Democratic Congressman Tim Walz of Mankato won a fourth term to the U.S. House Tuesday, easily topping Republican challenger Allen Quist — a former state lawmaker from St. Peter attempting a political comeback after nearly a quarter century out of office.
Walz had picked up 58 percent of the vote to 42 percent for Quist with 695 of 695 precincts counted just before 6 a.m. today. The incumbent’s margin was wide enough that Quist, a retired farmer and Bethany Lutheran College instructor, conceded shortly before 11 p.m. on election night.
Walz — a Mankato West High School teacher and defensive coordinator for the Scarlet football team prior to his 2006 upset victory over 12-year-incumbent Rep. Gil Gutknecht of Rochester — sounded like a coach addressing his players after a championship game victory.
“This isn’t about our team winning tonight,” Walz thundered to a cheering crowd at the City Center Hotel in Mankato. “It’s about America winning.”
He focused as much on President Barack Obama’s re-election as his own, saying that Tuesday’s results guaranteed that the American middle class would continue to be at the center of federal policy and that the health care reform known as Obamacare will not be repealed.
“We made a choice to stay the course,” Walz said. “... The American people affirmed it tonight.”
At Quist’s election party in Mankato Place just three blocks away, the mood was much more somber, a deflation that began when the presidential race was called for Obama. Dave Kruse, the GOP chair of the 1st District, said Republicans are “very concerned” about what an Obama victory means to the country — particularly the impact on the national debt.
At 10:47 p.m., Quist called about 30 family members to the stage — perhaps a third of his remaining supporters in the room — and said he’d just called Walz to concede.