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UPDATE: Kelliher concedes election to Dayton

ST. PAUL -- Mark Dayton is the Democratic-Farmer-Labor governor candidate. Opponent Margaret Anderson Kelliher made it official late this morning when she conceded.

"I just spoke with Mark Dayton and congratulated him on winning the DFL primary," Kelliher said in a statement. "I offered him my full support. He will make an excellent governor."

Kelliher said that she delayed conceding because "in Minnesota we value every person's voice and count every person's vote. And that's what happened this election."

The state House speaker said she will back Dayton: "Today we will come together as DFLers. We will unite behind Mark Dayton, and beat Tom Emmer in November."

Dayton, the former U.S. senator and department store heir, had 180,506 votes (41 percent) in unofficial returns and Kelliher 174,325 votes (40 percent) with 99.5 percent of the precinct counted this morning. Matt Entenza trailed with 18 percent.

In the meantime, Independence Party candidate Tom Horner told reporters this morning that he is the perfect candidate for the majority of Minnesotans not interested in the political left that Dayton represents or the right that Republican Emmer represents.

"There are clear, distinct choices," Horner said.

The key to the election, he said is, "in this polarized atmosphere, who has the ability to build consensus?"

Horner said the 2011 legislative session could be divisive. "We can't afford gridlock."

True government changes are needed, Horner said, and neither Dayton nor Emmer offer that.

"The status quo is not working," he added.

Horner said that he will launch television commercials statewide in the next couple of week.

But while Horner and Emmer won easily, such was not the case for Dayton.

Kelliher went in front of supporters at 2:40 a.m., refusing to concede and saying that "every vote counts."

"We are not making any decisions," she told supporters in a St. Paul cafe. "We have some numbers to come in yet, but we are not making any decisions about it."

Minutes later, Dayton said: "I totally respect Speaker Kelliher's prerogative to wait until every vote is counted."

Dayton said his campaign's figures looked a lot like that of the news media. The Associated Press declared Dayton the winner at 12:21 a.m., 11 hours before Kelliher conceded.

Dayton will face Emmer and Horner in the Nov. 2 election. Neither faced much of a challenge in Tuesday's primary election.

Dayton said he expects Entenza and Kelliher to back his campaign. Earlier, DFL Chairman Brian Melendez said that the party would unite behind whichever of the three candidates won the Tuesday vote because of them would be better than the alternatives.

Questions about how unified Democrats will be remained unanswered this morning, especially when people talked about the party keeping Dayton off the floor of its April convention in Duluth. Party officials said that since Dayton was not seeking the party endorsement, and planned all along to run in the primary, that he was not welcome.

Emmer said he did not care which DFLer he faced, saying they all stand for higher taxes and more government control.

Dayton, the best known figure in the primary, pumped more than $3 million of his own money into the campaign. Kelliher, of much more modest means, tried to use the party endorsement and DFL manpower to counteract the money Dayton and Entenza poured into the race.

Kelliher is wrapping up two terms as state House speaker. Dayton was U.S. senator six years, served as economic development commissioner twice and was state auditor.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.