Just before midnight Tuesday, Meredith Salsbery stood clutching three cell phones.
She was wedged in a throng of staff, volunteers and well-wishers who had flooded a third-floor room of the Mankato Holiday Inn. They were anticipating victory.
Salsbery’s boss, DFL candidate Tim Walz, paced behind a small bar. His wife, Gwen, stood close by. A member of incumbent Rep. Gil Gutknecht’s staff had called minutes earlier asking for Walz’s phone number.
In the three days leading up to Tuesday’s election, Walz visited 21 towns in Minnesota’s 23-county 1st Congressional District. He knocked on doors, rallied supporters and listened to voters’ concerns in a frantic finish to a two-year marathon to gain voters’ trust. Now, he stood on the verge of representing more than 615,000 Minnesotans in Washington.
After 22 months of campaigning, they waited for Gutknecht’s concession call.
“I just want the call,” Gwen Walz said. “I just want the call.”
Chris Schmitter, the campaign’s field director, spent Election Day glued to his laptop, monitoring voter turnout in the campaign’s command center at the Holiday Inn.
The information he was getting from his monitors at polling places around the district indicated high voter turnout.
By 4 p.m., voter turnout in Winona County was 183 percent what they expected — good news for the campaign. By 11 p.m., precinct results were consistently showing Walz with a 53 percent to 47 percent advantage, and people began putting their arms around each other.
“Isn’t that what politics is all about,” Kahn said later. “A real faith in the possibility of what can happen when people get together and believe.”
Walz took the phone from Meredith Salsbery, and the room leaned closer. Gwen Walz stared at the floor. After a brief conversation, Walz hung up and said simply, “It’s over.”
And a room full of dreamers yelled for all the world the hear.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
"Mr. Walz goes to Washington"
Winona Daily News (MN):