On a day when Republican Party leaders were breathing fire, Mark Dayton, the man who likely will be the state’s next governor, calmly but directly criticized anyone who would attempt to undermine the integrity of Minnesota’s recount process.
“This process should not be political,” Dayton said at an afternoon news conference at the state Capitol “It’s about something far more priceless than politics. … Anyone who casts aspersions on this process, without overwhelming evidence, is being irresponsible.”
Although Dayton said he was not singling out Republican Party Chairman Tony Sutton, it was clear that Dayton was responding to Sutton’s morning remarks.
Over and over again, Dayton repeatedly and passionately spoke of this being time “for the people’s voices to be heard.”
He said that the recount process in the state is clearly defined and run by people of “integrity.” He also noted that the four judges who will be among those on the state’s canvassing board all were appointed by Republican governors. He quickly added that he has no qualms about their backgrounds because “they have a responsibility to the people of Minnesota.”
Obviously, with a 9,000-vote lead over Republican Tom Emmer, it’s easier for Dayton to be the voice of reason than it might be for Republican officials who still are smarting from the recount that sent Democrat Al Franken to the U.S. Senate. He noted in the research his team had conducted earlier in the day, no recount in recent history had overcome the sort of margin he currently has.
But he also made it clear he was not declaring victory.
“I believe I’m ahead, but I’m not declaring victory,” he said.
The race isn’t over until he receives an election certificate signed by secretary of state Mark Ritchie, who easily won re-election Tuesday night, and Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Dayton said.
But, at the same time, he said he must begin to consider putting together a transition term so he’s prepared to take office whenever the recount is finished.
“There’s a huge amount of work to do,” he said. “We have an administration to put together.”
He also reminded those who will be involved in the recount process that “the clock is ticking.”
The new governor is to have taken office on Jan. 3, but the first huge milestone is Jan. 15. That’s the drop-dead date for Minnesota to opt into the federal Medicaid program, which Dayton believes is crucial for bringing stability to hospitals and health care in the state.
Pawlenty had rejected opting in, and Emmer had said throughout the campaign that he would follow the governor’s lead and keep Minnesota out of the program.
It’s unclear at this time whether a recount could move that quickly. The first step in the process is for county canvassing boards to certify results in each county, a process that runs Nov. 5-12. The state canvassing board, made up of Ritchie and four judges, will meet to certify those results on Nov. 23.
Republicans have made it clear they will track each move of each board carefully. Dayton said he’s spoken with attorneys about the process but at least tried to present himself as not being in an adversarial mode.
“You don’t have to manipulate [the process] in any way,” said Dayton.
He said that Al Gore’s approach to the presidential recount in 2000 should serve as the model for all politicians.
In the end, he noted, Gore lost, on a 5-4 vote by the U.S. Supreme Court. In many countries, Dayton said, such a close court decision in a volatile atmosphere would have led to “revolution” or “anarchy.”
Gore, he noted, said that “I disagree with the ruling” but would accept the outcome.
“This is not a re-election,” Dayton said. “It’s to determine the outcome of the election that has been held.”
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.