After another day in “As the Recount Turns,” this is what we know:
• The State Canvassing Board to certify results of the uncertain U.S. Senate contest between Al Franken and Norm Coleman was named today by beleaguered Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
• Ritchie, because of comments he made on MSNBC was clobbered by the Coleman campaign just hours after Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten whacked him for being a leftist and the Wall Street Journal took him on, too, for his “mischief.”
• As the TV lights clicked on at 2 p.m. today at a previously scheduled Ritchie news conference to explain the recount process, a statement (PDF) denouncing Ritchie’s MSNBC comments was emailed to reporters from the Coleman campaign.
The words that got the Coleman campaign’s dander up was Ritchie’s assertion about Coleman’s side: “Their goal is to win at any price. They’ve invested millions and millions of dollars. We consider this part of the normal political rhetoric … We’re used to the political rhetoric being amped up. That’s part of their job — to win at any price.”
• The canvassing board, besides Ritchie, is made up of: Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, a longtime friend and appointee of Gov. Tim Pawlenty; Associate Justice G. Barry Anderson; Ramsey County District Court Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin and Ramsey Assistant Chief Judge Edward Cleary.
Anderson is an Arne Carlson appointee to the State Appeals Court who was elevated by Pawlenty.
Gearin won her seat via election, and Cleary was appointed by Gov. Jesse Ventura.
The Franken campaign noted that Pawlenty has been a strong backer of Coleman and said in a statement (PDF): “… We will continue to hope that, despite the partisan affiliations of these two justices, they are capable of interpreting those laws correctly and ruling fairly on matters related to this recount.
“The real question is: Will the Coleman campaign continue its shameful effort to prevent every vote from being counted fairly, or will they stop spreading baseless claims?”
• Ritchie vehemently defended himself and his fairness:
“When a Supreme Court justice is appointed by whomever, they put on the robe. They stop being of a political party, and they start being servants of the people of Minnesota. And I feel the same way about when I took the oath of office and walked through the door … I certainly feel like campaigns … have a winner-take-all, win-at-any-price point of view, and that’s the opposite of election administrators who have ‘Who won the election?’ … this process seems to have a lot of emotion attached to it, but it doesn’t change our job … I can promise you that this is going to be run in an extraordinarily nonpartisan way.”
• The Coleman campaign’s lawyer Fritz Knaak said he was pleased with the composition of the canvassing board. “These are good judges,” he said. “I feel very positively about the people who were selected.”
But, Knaak wasn’t as confident of Ritchie and said that the secretary of state should be subject to “scrutiny” during this process.
• Franken spokesman Andy Barr countered: “The Coleman campaign and its political allies have been trying to claim that Minnesota’s secretary of state is just a left-wing partisan. I think we can all now see that their claims were just political posturing. Today, Mark Ritchie has named two partisan Republican Supreme Court justices to the state canvassing board.”
• The recount will begin next week after the canvassing board meets. Counting will be open to the public to see and, ideally, it will be completed by Dec. 5.
A drip-drip-drip of challenges and voting changes will be made available to the public, Ritchie said.
The canvassing board will meet again Dec. 16 and will review all the reports from the counties. The board will certify the final tally.
Any legal challenges will come after that.
But as someone at the news conference stated, it sounds like both sides are “working the refs,” that is, attempting to harass the umpires to get a close call at crunch time.
Sounds like that last-minute call won’t occur for about 34 days.