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Revved up for recount, MNGOP Chair Sutton won’t buy ‘Lake Wobegon syndrome’

On the secretary of state’s website, with 100 percent of precincts now reporting, Mark Dayton leads Tom Emmer in the race for governor by 8,775 votes. On a percentage of total votes basis, it’s 43.63 to 43.21 percent, or a margin of 0.42. By law, a margin of 0.5 percent or less triggers an automatic recount. Dems should not be blaming Repubs for the recount. Unless there are changes when the figures are rechecked that create a larger margin, the recount will proceed, at public expense.

If at any point, the Repubs appear to be stalling to intentionally extend Gov. Pawlenty’s hold on the office and  create a period when he and the new Repub majority in the Legislature could rush through actions that would otherwise be vetoed by Dayton, that will be another and much more serious and questionable matter.

Leading the recount charge at the moment is the voluble Minnesota Repub Chair Tony Sutton, who can alternate four or five times within a single sentence between the reasonable argument (it’s mandated by law, there’s a process to be followed and make sure no mistakes were made) and the less-reasonable and far more questionable implication that the election has been stolen by fraud.

“I don’t know if I’m suggesting fraud or incompetence,” Sutton said yesterday at a media event covered by MinnPost’s Jay Weiner. At the same event, he called the Minnesota election system a “disgrace,” although neutral observers generally find it to be one of the best, if not the best, in the country.

“I don’t want to fall for the Lake Wobegon syndrome that everything’s great in Minnesota,” Sutton told me just now on the phone. Fine. Not everything’s great in Minnesota (and I would have to say that a proper description of the Lake Wobegon syndrome would be that everything’s “pretty good” in Minnesota. Lake Wobegon doesn’t cotton to people who consider themselves great).

But one thing that Sutton keeps saying every time he gets wound up on the subject bugs me because it is illogical or unmathematical or mostly just ahistorical. Every time he says that something “doesn’t smell right” about the current state of the Dayton lead over Emmer (and he did it again when we just spoke) he points out that the Repubs just took control of both houses of the Legislature, knocked off longtime Dem Congressman Jim Oberstar in the forever DFL-leaning 8th District and it just doesn’t seem possible that on such a night, the DFL candidate for guv could beat the Repub.

Here’s the problem (I suspect you can see it coming): It’s absolutely normal in Minnesota for at least the prevailing plurality of voters to divide power between a governor of one party and a Legislature of the other party.

The Minnesota Senate was under DFL control continuously since 1973, during which period Republicans won the governorship  five times. Did the results of those guv races smell funny to Sutton? Control of the Minnesota House has jumped around more than control of the Senate has, but not in any way that would tend to support Sutton’s insistence that it’s strange, bordering on suspicious, for the Minnesota electorate not to install the same party in control of the legislative and executive branches.

The last time a gubernatorial election coincided with an election involving every seat in the Legislature was 1990, when the voters installed a new Republican governor (Arne Carlson) while returning the DFL to majorities in both houses. Anything fishy there?

Sutton also makes much of the fact that Mark Ritchie, whom he considers a very partisan and far-left DFLer, was secretary of state this year when the state (tentatively may have) mysteriously divided power between a DFL governor and a Repub legislative majority by a very narrow margin. Funny thing though, in the last race for guv, the Republican (Tim Pawlenty) won by a less-then-1 percentage point margin, even as the state simultaneously voted the Repub majority out of power in the House. Does Sutton suppose that this result was engineered by the (some would say) highly partisan far-right Republican  secretary of state at the time Mary Kiffmeyer? (If so, it would be strange that Kiffmeyer didn’t engineer herself a new term, since she lost that year to Ritchie.)

Anyhow, I know I’ve gotten carried away. Once I started looking this stuff up, I couldn’t stop (but I will now). I’m just kinda biased toward history, logic and consistency, and the claim of an inexplicable/suspicious (but really quite normal) divided result of an election started bothering me right away on Tuesday when I first heard Sutton make it. So now I’m sure he’ll cut it out.

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Comments (21)

  1. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 11/04/2010 - 03:09 pm.

    Mr. Sutton cannot comprehend that a person can hold political views yet discharge his public trust ethically and scrupulously. Mr. Sutton’s comments say nothing about Mr. Ritchie, but alot about Mr. Sutton and perhaps those with whom he surrounds himself.

  2. Submitted by Dan Bredahl on 11/04/2010 - 03:14 pm.

    To steal a play from the Tea Party playbook…….

    Tony Sutton’s comments simply go to show that he is out of touch with ordinary Minnesota values and ideals. To degrade our election system and question its validity and fairness shows his total disregard for Minnesota Exceptionalism. Mr. Sutton’s vile and heartless comments belittle the decades of work that Minnesota residents, on both sides of the aisle, have strived to achieve in conducting fair and honest elections. We are the envy of the country and Mr. Sutton’s cynicism only serves to give strength and comfort to places like Florida and Ohio.

    It’s clear that Mr. Sutton just doesn’t understand Minnesota or our exceptional place in electoral politics. I must ask, has anyone seen Tony’s birth certificate? How do we really know he’s one of us?

  3. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/04/2010 - 04:20 pm.

    On every elementary school playground in the world they have a phrase for the pathetically immature and spoiled-childish behavior being displayed by Mr. Sutton (which is, I believe, very embarrassing to all the “strong” women “good looking” men and above average children of Minnesota).

    Mr. Sutton is a “sore loser.” Nothing more, nothing less. He needs to grow up, stop whining, and let the excellent Minnesota Canvassing process work itself out as well as the recount (if necessary).

    If Mr. Emmer loses any necessary recount, but then “contests” the election (as did Norm Coleman, et al) we will become the very pinnacle and epitome of sore loserdom.

    Too bad these men are not anything close to as honorable nor brave as Al Gore who despite the questionable nature of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bush V. Gore, accepted it with grace and style (and didn’t run around for the rest of his life whining about how the election was stolen the way so many of our right wing friends are still doing about Norm Coleman’s legitimate and VERY well documented loss).

  4. Submitted by Charlie Quimby on 11/04/2010 - 04:22 pm.

    You mean the law mandates a recount at 0.50 percent or less.

  5. Submitted by Tanner Curl on 11/04/2010 - 04:31 pm.

    I always wonder if politicos/hacks truly believe the spin they spout off, or if they feel the end justifies the means.

    Sutton could be up at the podium, talking about the “smell” of things, but at the same time thinking, “Yeah, this is pretty weak, but I have to position my party for victory, and if this helps, I’ll do what I have to do.” Or maybe he really believes the spin, which, at the very least, seems a bit more honorable (in a loose definition of the word).

    Or maybe I’m just a naive fool who likes to ponder such things. Yeah, that sounds about right.

    Regardless, it’s this kind of stuff that makes me want to live off the grid somewhere. How can you have political conversations when the conclusions are dictating (or ignoring) the evidence? How can you have a productive dialogue with a birther?

  6. Submitted by Tim Walker on 11/04/2010 - 04:38 pm.

    Dan B.:


    You need to start writing talking points for the spineless DFLers here … and please shoot some of them off to the DNC while you’re at it.

  7. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 11/04/2010 - 04:52 pm.

    Mr. Sutton’s comments are meant to be red meat for the base. His statements are the beginning of a fund raising appeal to conservatives across the country for a possible recount. Legal fees reached upwards of 10 million for the political parties in the MN senate recount.

  8. Submitted by Tony Wagner on 11/04/2010 - 04:53 pm.

    Tony Sutton might be bad at math too. Not only did the Democratic candidates win all of the other statewide races (SoS, AG, and auditor), going by the unofficial results on the SoS web page, Democrats overall garnered 31,287 more votes than Republicans in the U.S. House races too.

    If anything, Emmer appears to have performed BETTER than the other statewide or congressional Republican candidates (partially attributable to the lack of an incumbent in the guv race).

    And despite what appears to be an overwhelming victory in legislature seats, Republican state house candidates beat their Democratic counterparts by less than 2% overall, and less than 1% for the state senate. The “Republican wave” was fairly tame and predominantly local in Minnesota this year.

  9. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 11/04/2010 - 05:18 pm.

    Eric, about this statement, “Dems should not be blaming Repubs for the recount”, who on the DFL side has suggested there shouldn’t be a recount? Obviously we’d rather have a win over the recount threshold, but I’ve heard no one suggest not having the recount. Unlike Coleman when he led by a few hundred votes, no DFLer I’ve heard has suggested Emmer drop out. If you’ve heard otherwise, a reference would be good.

    To provide another answer to Tony Sutton’s question of how the GOP could take the legislature and the DFL flip governor, I suggest it’s a matter of DFL votes being heavily concentrated in the Twin Cities. It means winning urban districts by massive amounts, and maybe when all votes are in and tallied, it will turn out as many people voted for DFL legislators as Republicans. That being the case, it should be no surprise the DFL wins statewide races. Unlike legislative races, a vote in a heavily partisan district is as good as a vote in a swing district. It’s really no mystery.

  10. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 11/04/2010 - 05:29 pm.

    Wait a minute, a party chair is *spinning* information for gain. That’s perfectly uncromulent!

  11. Submitted by Peter Vader on 11/04/2010 - 05:37 pm.

    That Tony Sutton is the face of the Republican effort fills this Democrat with joy.

  12. Submitted by Tim Larson on 11/04/2010 - 09:47 pm.

    //I’m just kinda biased toward history, logic and consistency, and the claim of an inexplicable/suspicious (but really quite normal) divided result of an election started bothering me right away on Tuesday when I first heard Sutton make it.

    What would Brian Melendez have said if the situations were reversed?

    Whatever he needed too, just like Sutton did.

    This is no Franken/Coleman. 9000 votes is a huge number to overcome. The only way Emmer wins is if they find 10,000 votes in a cave somewhere. I hope he concedes if the canvassing board finds it to be over .5%.

  13. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/04/2010 - 11:01 pm.

    Actually, if we check the historical record we discover that Democrats do not “toss red meat to the base” in these situations, especially where even the tiniest bit of fact checking reveals that there’s nothing out of the ordinary happening.

    So, yeah… cut out the false “everybody does it” equivalency B.S. Everybody DOESN’T do it and in the rare instances where the DFL side raises question, they’ve done their homework first and are actually basing their questions of factual evidence rather than just casting out the type of spin that draws flies as soon as it’s out of your mouth.

  14. Submitted by Josh Lease on 11/04/2010 - 11:53 pm.

    Let’s go slowly so Chairman Sutton can understand.

    Governor was a three-way race, with the DFL (Dayton), GOP (Emmer), and IP (Horner) on the ballot. The vast majority of legislative races had only DFL & GOP candidates on the ballot. Gee…could it be that a bunch of people voted for Tom Horner for Governor and the GOP candidate for House or Senate? Wouldn’t even have taken all that many considering how close so many of these races were!

    Nah, that’s just too simple, logical, and TRUE.

    Can’t let reality get in the way of a good narrative and an opportunity to undermine Mark Dayton, Mark Ritchie, and the DFL can you Mr. Sutton?

  15. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 11/05/2010 - 01:29 pm.

    “What would Brian Melendez have said if the situations were reversed?

    Whatever he needed too, just like Sutton did.”

    No way. Not in a million years. Not under these facts. And its not just becaue Melendez is a Democrat. Most Republicans would not stoop to the level that Sutton did.

  16. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/05/2010 - 03:15 pm.

    I’m confident that liberals are genuinely unaware of the lingering stink from Franken’s ascendency, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

    Franken supporters rely on the presence of the Supreme Court to backstay their claims of transparency and legitimacy, but that argument ignores the fact the court can only consider evidence brought before it.

    In the weeks leading up to the canvassing board certification of the results, the newspapers story after story describing bags, boxes and envelopes of ballots that had been found kicking around precinct offices.

    And adding to the ripe aroma those finds brought, came the eventually predictable revelation that the vast majority of resurfaced votes always favored Franken.

    Then too, we must remember the white hot hatred that fueled the left in 2008 left many conservatives believing there was little a dedicated leftist wouldn’t have stooped to to win; remember Ed Shultz’s admission that he’d cheat to beat those b*stards?

    Look, I’ll admit there is no smoking gun, Eric, and further, I’ll admit that while I took the dedicated liberal’s adoration of Franken as a given, somewhere deep inside me resides the belief that reasonable people wouldn’t have, couldn’t have, voted for a man so utterly repugnant.

    Faith in humanity isn’t a cold hard fact, I know.

    So while conservative caution may well approach paranoia, it’s not wholly unreasonable…its Franken’s legacy.

    Until Sutton declares he “hates those F’ing MFers” his votriol hasn’t even approached the line Senator* Al Franken drew in the public sandbox.

  17. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/05/2010 - 03:48 pm.

    So, Mr. Swift–
    From which direction are you approaching paranoia?

  18. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 11/05/2010 - 04:56 pm.

    From behind, where else?

    How do you sneak up on delusion?

  19. Submitted by Joel Jensen on 11/05/2010 - 05:15 pm.

    Recounts are good.

    Frivoulous or intentional dog-in-the-manger gambits to keep duly elected Democrats out of office are not.

    Undermining the legitimacy of the election process and Minnesota justice system with unsubstaniated and undeserved claims of corruption or incompetence are even worse.

    One thing to consider is that a “Coup by Election Contest” (from the MN Republicans lawyering up and utlizing what the French refer to as Operation Escargot) would not help TPAW’s already-faltering presidential aspirations nor would it have the political cover provided by the national groups that the GOP’s drag-out of the US Senate contest had in 2008 (which 60% of Minnesotans opposed.)

    Since we can’t count on a GOP-engineered repeat of the “Brooks Brothers Riot” (Fl circa 2000), the public will have to make it’s own voice heard if the GOP chooses that low-slow road.

    As far as Emmer’s subpar performance, even prominent rightwing blogs were warning that the Emmer campaign was dangerously underperforming compared to both previous GOP statewide candidates and current local GOP candidates – based on their own polling.

    So Tony Sutton (the emotionally compromised mayhem-friendly chair of the Republican Party who thinks Dayton isn’t even hot) knows better.

    He’s just intentionally undermining public respect for the system to serve his own agenda. In a related note, the sun will also appear in the east tomorrow morning.

    And I am still waiting for the GOP calls for impeachment of the Minnesota Supreme Court (a majority of which were appointed by not-Democrats) for their unanimous yet somehow biased and corrupt decision* that the Democrat, Al Franken, had won in the US Senate race in 2008.


    If everytime a Republican looses, they attempt to undermine and de-legitimize the entire system, do they really respect and support government based on law, do they really respect the will of the people and the authority of the courts, or are those things true for them only when they win or the courts agree with them?

    The people’s will is still the people’s will even if it differs from your own.

    And the law is the law. Cut it down to pave your own way and it won’t be there when you need it most.

  20. Submitted by Tim Larson on 11/05/2010 - 10:39 pm.

    #13 Greg

    Nice double Straw man with a full false, false equivalency twist. (Love the quotations around words nobody wrote.)

    You’re a team player, emotionally invested in a political party. I get that, and that’s your right, but I find it sad.

  21. Submitted by Christopher Moseng on 11/06/2010 - 12:34 pm.

    “the court can only consider evidence brought before it.”

    The election contest was the opportunity for Coleman’s lawyers to bring every fact relevant to their contest of the election. Anything so stinky it should have affected the outcome of the election would have been presented as evidence. The “story after story describing bags, boxes and envelopes of ballots that had been found kicking around precinct offices” were ultimately deemed uncontroversial either by Coleman’s lawyers (by not objecting to them) or by the canvassing board and the court. Persistent paranoia about those stories reflects nothing more than a refusal to accept the fact that the ballots that were “found” had a valid and proven chain of custody and remained sealed in containers by pairs of election judges, and presented no controversy whatsoever, except for people looking to have their predetermined beliefs of illegitimacy confirmed.

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