ST. PETER - DFL candidate Clark Johnson won a commanding victory Tuesday in the Minnesota House district 19A special election.
Johnson received 2,680 votes - 53.69 percent, compared to Republican candidate Allen Quist's 1,801 votes - 36.08 percent, and Independence Party candidate Tim Gieseke's 511 votes, or 10 percent.
Election turnout was 4,992, which was 19 percent of the 26,009 registered voters and 28 percent of the November 2012 voters.
Johnson's votes came primarily from North Mankato and St. Peter. His heavy emphasis on Gustavus Adolphus College student voters, which represented the single biggest voter precinct in the district, paid off with him receiving 88 percent of that precinct's votes.
The election looked very similar for Quist,who unsuccessfully ran for Minnesota's 1st Congressional District last November. He did much better on average in the rural areas. But, he pulled in nearly the exact same results in St. Peter and North Mankato, which represents 70 percent of the registered voters.
Gieseke got 10 percent of the vote, which was very nearly the same percentage that Tom Horner received in the 2010 gubernatorial election. Gieseke's strongest support came from rural areas.
Weighing in on the results
Johnson, an MSU/Mankato professor, expressed pleasure with his victory. He attributed the win to carrying the same message that put the DFL in the majority of the Minnesota House and Senate as a result of the November election. He also pointed to running an efficient, competitive campaign that focused on voter turnout.
The state's process to certify election results will take place today. Johnson is aiming to officially take his seat in the Legislature early next week. He will initially work to learn the ropes of the job, then turn his focus to the state budget debate.
Quist announced Tuesday night that he was officially retiring from running for political office. Quist served three terms in the Legislature in the 1980s before twice unsuccessfully running for governor in the 1990s and twice unsuccessfully running for U.S. Congress over the last four years. He previously said he was done with politics after losing last November.
He said he will instead turn his focus to work on statewide and higher political issues behind the scenes. He said his biggest accomplishment was leading the repeal of Minnesota's Profiles of Learning, which he accomplished outside political office. He said he loves working on researching important topics and then sharing his findings.
"Self governance is a privilege. I'm glad I was able to play a part in it. I will be looking into things beyond political office in the future," said Quist.
Gieseke said he felt he would have received more votes if he had the extensive campaign infrastructure of the two major parties.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)