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Senate recount’s continuing forecast: blustery partisan winds from two directions

Minnesota’s major political parties held dueling press conferences today in the Senate recount marathon and offered familiar messages: DFLers urged Norm Coleman to give up what they call a hopeless battle, and Republicans insisted that he needs to c

Minnesota’s major political parties held dueling press conferences today in the Senate recount marathon and offered familiar messages: DFLers urged Norm Coleman to give up what they call a hopeless battle, and Republicans insisted that he needs to continue the good fight.

The face-off developed when state Republican Party Chairman Ron Carey heard that DFL officials had called an afternoon press conference to launch a public information campaign urging Coleman to concede. Carey decided to hold an earlier, pre-emptive press conference.

So at 1 p.m. reporters and photographers gathered at the Capitol — otherwise nearly deserted because of the Passover/Holy Week break — to hear Carey announce that the local Republican Party is starting its own public relations campaign to tell people that the Democrats and Al Franken “want to end a recount process that’s not finished.”

Until the remaining 4,400 absentee votes are counted in what he calls a fair and equitable manner, Carey said, there’s no way of knowing who won the election.

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Some of his talking points:

• Our democracy depends on a fair election process.

• The state GOP will send letters to the editor, distribute op-ed pieces and blanket talk radio to let Minnesotans know that 4,400 ballots still need to be counted.

• That’s because ballots rejected in one jurisdiction might have been accepted in another.

• Fundraising is not the motivation for this campaign, “although it may be a secondary outcome, I don’t know.”

Carey said the public information campaign is important because, even though citizens can’t vote on how to conduct the recount or on how it’s adjudicated, “public pressure can influence you in the back of your mind.” He later said he wasn’t trying to influence the judges handling the case.

“Sen. Coleman is fighting to ensure no legal ballot is uncounted. And we believe every Minnesotan — including Al Franken — should stand up and fight to ensure this fundamental right is met,” he said.

An hour later, state DFL Chair Brian Melendez took his turn, in the same Capitol hearing room, and introduced a new website that includes a minute-plus video outlining why it’s important that Norm Coleman accept the pending court ruling from a three-judge panel hearing the recount appeal. Although the decision hasn’t yet been rendered, the results of the ballots added into the count by the judges show that Franken has increased his lead over Coleman to 312 votes.

He said Coleman should put Minnesota’s interest over his own, and that once the ruling is issued, there will be no basis for appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which is the next possible step for the Coleman camp.

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Melendez said he also fears that Coleman will file a parallel suit in federal court, arguing constitutional issues over ballots being treated differently in different jurisdictions, arguments made in the 2000 Bush v. Gore election in Florida.

His message to Coleman: If you’re planning on dragging this out for years, give it up now.

Melendez did say that if Coleman plans to appeal only to the Minnesota Supreme Court and not go the federal route, DFLers probably would not be pursuing this website/public information campaign.

“Former Sen. Coleman had every right, under law, to contest the recount results. And he got his day in court. He got seven weeks,” Melendez said.

“Minnesota needs to have Sen.-elect Al Franken seated so as many voices as possible are speaking up for our state and its people,” he said.