NEW YORK – Famously independent Minnesota lost that iconic "I" over it on national maps and replaced it with an "R."
Independent Gov. Jesse Ventura is stepping down to be replaced by state House Republican leader Tim Pawlenty, who beat state Senate Democratic-Farmer-Labor leader Roger Moe 46 to 35, with half the precincts counted. Independent Tim Penny, once a Democratic representative, used to be nearly on par with his rivals, but eked out a mere 16 percent.
The three-way race had the candidates trying to establish themselves as distinct characters.
Pawlenty hit hardest, calling his opponents tax-happy and criticizing Penny for not offering any specifics when it comes to balancing the budget. He raised at least $1.9 million, more than his nearest rival, even after he was forced to give up $600,000 as a penalty for campaign-finance violations.
Moe had been focusing on education and lowering the prices of prescription drugs. He raised $1.7 million through Oct. 21.
Penny, who raised $936,560, urged Minnesotans to "vote your conscience," and cancelled many public appearances in the last days of his campaign to focus on courting the media.
Everything in this frigid state was tinged by the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone, and that includes the governor's race. Though Dems hoped that Wellstone’s death might create a wave of pro-Democratic sympathy, that may have been countered by a pro-GOP push after public rallying at the senator’s memorial service.
Penny, for his part, seemed to have been flabbergasted by Ventura’s appointment of an independent to replace Wellstone, and hadn’t been able to woo over the rambunctious former wrestler’s supporters.
Green Party candidate Ken Pentel won 2 percent, while independent Booker Hodges IV, Socialist Kari Sachs and last-past third-party candidate Lawrence Michael Aeshliman each got less than 1 percent of the vote.