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Inside Politics

Kennedy retains post in Minnesota

Minnesota 6th Congressional District

Rep. Mark Kennedy, above, faced a tough challenge from Democrat Patty Wetterling this year.
House: MN 06 Updated: 5:33 p.m. ET
Kennedy 54%
Wetterling 46%
100% precincts reporting
Election Results Main Page

(CNN) -- GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy's election bid saw its share of struggles but the three-term representative defeated Democrat Patty Wetterling, a child advocate and political neophyte, to hold onto his 6th District seat.

Earlier in the year, Kennedy appeared in cruise control, easily defeating his Republican foes in the primary and filling his usual mighty campaign coffers. But in May, Wetterling announced her candidacy as a Democrat.

Kennedy, who easily handled his well-funded Democratic opponent in 2002 (57 percent to 35 percent) in a district where President Bush won by 10 percentage points in 2000, was suddenly in a battle.

Wetterling was well-liked and well-known as someone who had dedicated her life to fighting for children after her son, Jacob, was kidnapped at gunpoint while riding his bike in 1989. He remains missing.

Since then, Wetterling became a national spokesperson on issues related to missing and exploited children. On her resume are her relentless efforts for such legislation as Megan's Law, the Amber Alert system and sex-offender registration.

She had instant credibility. A poll taken for her campaign in July showed she had 91-percent name recognition and a 57-percent positive rating. The poll also showed Wetterling in a statistical dead heat with the incumbent -- he led 46 percent to 43. Her national profile also helped her in the fundraising department. By the end of September, she had raised $1,281,858 to Kennedy's $1,992,145 and had the endorsement of EMILY's List, a grassroots political organization.

Being such a sympathetic figure allowed Wetterling, a first-time candidate, some slack, especially on farm issues, where early on she'd been quoted as saying, "I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, and I thought food came from the grocery store. ... I am so grateful for your patience with my learning curve."

She also attacked Kennedy for his 98 percent voting record with President Bush.

Kennedy fought back, but had to so in a more subtle manner. One Kennedy ad that did not mention Wetterling by name, chastised those who "suggest that we should not have fought in Afghanistan or that we'd be safe with Saddam not in prison." Another ad mentioned Wetterling's acceptance of $800,000 from "a group that opposed fighting terrorists in Afghanistan."

Republicans also argued that her advocacy of abortion rights and support from liberal-leaning groups like put her out of the cultural mainstream in this district.

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