If you thought 36 days were an election recount eternity in 2000, the 2008/2009 Minnesota Senate race will have you re-evaluating that definition. YES, believe it or not, Minnesota still only has one United States Senator. Despite then incumbent Senator Norm Coleman leading by a slim margin in the initial count, a recount, completed in January, 2009, showed Al Franken ahead by 225 votes. Coleman took his challenge to the Minnesota courts. The Senate election that just doesn't want to end will soon enter its sixth month, but the end may be near despite what Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) hopes and believes.
Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is threatening “World War III” if Democrats try to seat Al Franken in the Senate before Norm Coleman can pursue his case through the federal courts. He acknowledges that a federal challenge to November’s elections could take “years” to resolve. But he’s adamant that Coleman deserves that chance — even if it means Minnesota is short a senator for the duration.
On Tuesday. March 31, 2009, the three judge panel assigned to hear the election challenge issued an order to count only about 400 absentee ballots, thus almost securing another "victory" for Franken. The choice on the absentee ballots are unknown. The 400 challenged ballots come from both counties won by Franken and Coleman, and OVC finds it hard to believe that 80 percent (the approximate number needed by Coleman to overcome the Franken lead) of those ballots would fall into the Coleman column.
Coleman's lead attorney, Ben Ginsburg, has said that if Coleman is unsuccessful when the panel issues its final order next week after the last 400 votes are counted, that he will file an immediate appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court. The law allows 10 days from the time of the panel's decision.
OVC believes that two factors will push Coleman into doing the honorable thing --- concede. Those factors are Coleman's possible political future and Coleman's lack of cash to keep paying Ginsburg, et. al.
The legal bills for Coleman's challenge are in the millions of dollars, and a lot of that money is coming from outside Minnesota. That money could be spent much more wisely on future Senate elections as the GOP tries to keep the Democrats below the a 60 seat majority in the United States Senate. The Democrats (counting two independents) would reach 59 when Franken is seated. Many players in the GOP, with the exception of Cornyn, are ready to move on to 2010.
Coleman may or may not have a political future in Minnesota or Washington, D.C. There is something to be said of fighting the good fight and then doing the honorable thing. It worked for Al Gore in 2000. Gore emerged as the gracious and honorable loser and moved on to bigger and better things. (We'll leave the fact that Gore actually won Florida in 2000 to another day.)
Coleman is not independently wealthy, so he needs a new gig. He'll have a much better shot of getting that gig if he walks away after fighting the good fight. That time to walk away should come sooner than Cornyn's "hundred years' war."