Recount strategy: Why GOP is taking a hard line

“This recount is about the state. We don’t just owe this to [Tom] Emmer and the party. This is about the state.”

Tony Sutton, Minnesota Republican Party chair, delivered these words with the calm demeanor of a man who knows that this is the highest-stake game the state GOP will play for the next four years. At the same time, he must face down the faithful who are saying: Quit while you’re ahead.

Tony Sutton
MinnPost/Terry Gydesen
Tony Sutton

Sutton’s challenge is to bolster GOP victories in the Legislature, which have given Republicans majorities in both chambers, while reminding supporters — particularly donors — that, by far, the bigger prize is the governor’s office. It’s not an easy sell.

“There’s a large group of people who are saying it’s time to move on. Let’s get through this and move on,” says one former senior party official. “There’s a lot of people who are pleasantly surprised by the legislative victories and who are more comfortable now with [Mark] Dayton.”

Says another GOP insider: “The stakes are incredibly high, higher than most people understand. People are basking in the glow of the House and the Senate, but in terms of practical power — this is an unknown power.”

In other words, the Legislature is the sum of 201 moving parts that must move as one solid block to equal the power that comes from the governor’s office. That is not likely if for one reason alone: Because of redistricting, both the House and Senate are up for reelection in two years (instead of the usual four-year period for senators), so members will be unusually sensitive to reactions of voters of their districts, making it difficult for party leaders to keep members in line.

Still, there’s some red meat out there to justify the Republican’s ferocious approach. Hennepin County’s vote-reporting errors on election night and the belief that the Republicans were out-lawyered in the 2008 Franken-Coleman recount explain Sutton’s choice of a strong legal team and his aggressive recruitment of recount volunteers. 

But will it be enough to energize the fundraising to pay for it all? “The donor community believes we have a good opportunity,” Sutton said.

But Emmer was not the first choice of many GOP donors, and the former party official predicts if may be difficult to raise money.  

So Sutton needs to keep issuing the reminders.

“We have an obligation to do this recount, not just a right. We’ve got to be prepared,” he said. “It’s our role to be the cynic and the skeptic. Even though this is a great state- mistakes can be made. Trust but verify.”

Streamlined committee plan
The new GOP majority in the House and Senate is staying on task. Expect that early next week the House and Senate will have worked out a streamlined committee structure that, GOP leaders say, will expedite the massive task of balancing the state budget.

In the House there are three dozen committees and divisions of committees — and even divisions of divisions (i.e., the transportation oversight division of the transportation policy division of the finance committee).

House Majority Leader Matt Dean said the committee number burgeoned under DFL leadership to accommodate all the legislators who wanted to be on the same committee.

“The overlap was cumbersome,” he said. “We’d have one spigot of money going to four different committees and it was hard to keep track of what was being done and required too much oversight to get everything reconciled.”

Dean says along with the new committee structure, there may be some fresh faces as chairmen and chairwomen. “We have a great crop of freshman and sophomore legislators,” he said, and some could ascend to leadership roles.

Dean’s job during the campaign was to recruit these legislators as candidates. Now, he said, they need to have their time used wisely.

Comments (24)

  1. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 11/11/2010 - 10:35 am.

    The reason why the GOP is taking a hard line?

    They know how Pawlenty was able to outmaneuver a Democratic legislature. The tables will now be reversed.

  2. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 11/11/2010 - 10:54 am.

    If the tables were turned, the DFL would do the same. The concerns of the GOP should be addressed, although I am not so sure they will like the results.

  3. Submitted by Jason Carle on 11/11/2010 - 11:33 am.

    There’s Cyndy, the new Right Wing media mouthpiece pretending to be a journalist…

  4. Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 11/11/2010 - 11:47 am.

    If the audits come back clean (and they should) and the statewide recount – which should proceed as the law lays out – shows Dayton’s lead as anything other than a few-hundred-vote squeaker (hard to imagine at this point – County certs are coming in w/ minimal changes, precinct audits are matching up), the GOP better understand that lawsuits that gum up final certification past the formal, judicially supervised recount will reflect very, very badly on them.

    The people want solutions to the budget deficit and jobs. We don’t want politics of division to drag out in frivolous lawsuits that can’t accept a Dayton win in the 8,000 or so vote range.

    Recount it once and move on.

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/11/2010 - 12:00 pm.

    I’m with Ralf (#4). Let the recount process proceed according to law, and if past history is any indication, that’s what will be done (and carefully). If Dayton wins, then Dayton wins.

    Should the Republican Party then delay the whole process of dealing with the state’s genuine issues by taking the results to court, I’d say they will have richly deserved crucifixion, at least politically. Delay for partisan political purposes has no merit and deserves swift, merciless exposure, constant repetition to the voters, and an ongoing campaign to paint the state’s Republican Party, correctly, as hostile to democracy.

  6. Submitted by B Maginnis on 11/11/2010 - 12:19 pm.

    Hang in, Tony.

    It’s the right thing to do!

    Pun intended.

  7. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/11/2010 - 12:31 pm.

    “If the tables were turned, the DFL would do the same.”

    I don’t think that’s true. I know the advice I would give my folks is let the recount proceed. Once it’s done, if there are reasonable issues to pursue that could change the outcome, then go ahead and pursue them. If not, accept the results of the election and move on.

    By the way, I have no reason to think that isn’t the advice, Rep. Emmer is receiving or that that won’t be the way he will decide to proceed.

  8. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/11/2010 - 12:33 pm.

    Republicans have always argued and may possibly even believe that the 5.8 billion dollar deficit could be restructured, or redesigned or perhaps even redefined away. Currently, what they seem to be telling us that the problems can be solved by magical reorganization charts. So far at least, I am unconvinced.

  9. Submitted by Theresa Anderson-Kentner on 11/11/2010 - 12:47 pm.

    Why do we on one had, want to get away from judges deciding important things from the bench, but on the other hand, it is and OK way to choose our leaders?

  10. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 11/11/2010 - 01:08 pm.

    Biy the Republican echo chamber is in fill timbre today.

  11. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 11/11/2010 - 01:38 pm.

    “Why do we on one had, want to get away from judges deciding important things from the bench, but on the other hand, it is and OK way to choose our leaders?”

    It all depends on whose ox is gored.

  12. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 11/11/2010 - 03:25 pm.

    The recount should resolve any concerns about whom received the highest number of votes cast. It should also address any concerns about the validity of all votes cast.

    Is it prudent for a political party to prepare itself for a possible challenge to a recount. I think it’s fair to say both parties are doing so. One to defend and one to challenge.

    The question is whether a party faced with the overwhelming evidence of a recount should pursue a legal remedy for pure political gain. I would agree with those that believe the perception of such a move would not be kind.

  13. Submitted by Jeff Kline on 11/11/2010 - 03:47 pm.

    I just love the democrats here. They are so quick to point out that the pot is black; ignoring their own kettle.

    I appreciate Cindy on here now as she is a long time journalist here in the cities. She’ll bring some fresh color into these debates.

    As to the democrats trying to scheme and all, lets face it. The law was put in place by guess who…. And guess when…. Now that the tables are indeed turned, they’re crying foul. Lets get the story straight people. 🙂

    May the chips fall where they may.

  14. Submitted by James Hamilton on 11/11/2010 - 04:37 pm.

    Why is the GOP taking such a hard line? Because they want it all.If Rep. Emmer has any integrity, he’ll stop with the automatic recount unless there is substantial evidence that would likely result in a change in the outcome. The party be damned.

  15. Submitted by Jean Schiebel on 11/11/2010 - 06:58 pm.

    When Franken was behind by about 300 votes two years ago..wasn’t it the Republicans who said Al Franken should decline a recount for the good of the State??
    Wasn’t it Tim Pawlenty who went on Fox news and repeated false rumors about Franken’s win?
    Republicans who claim to be fiscally conservative, will prove to the state they are hypocrites if they challenge the hand recount, if the lead is still in the thousands.

    Cindy I use to respect your journalism.

  16. Submitted by Dodd Demas on 11/11/2010 - 08:02 pm.

    “Why GOP is taking a hard line” doesn’t even dare touch the issue of whether the “hard line” is justified here. Does anyone seriously believe that the data entry stupidity in Henn county was anything but accidental? For the sane, I can’t imagine it.

    The real problem is that the Repub party could have walked away with this race if it had put forward a substantial candidate. Combine that with Sutton’s spin implying that some sort of vote-count fraud by those evil Minneapolis Democrats could be to blame for his loss, and we have framed the poison in the well of democracy: Just keep implying that democracy is being co-opted by recount manipulators or poll watchers, and you don’t have to have real leaders as a candidates.

    Enough of us have come to suspect that significant voter-fraud exists (ACORN! ACORN!) that Sutton and his ilk use that uncertainty to generate suspicions of fraud in selected races, in a system that is amazingly well run and beyond serious reproach.

    Brucato is just amplifying the echo by either pretending that she doesn’t see the deliberate spin or pretending that the
    Sutton-spin is just a natural part of the process.

    She should know better. She worked for a sort-of moderate Repub in Carlson. He talks about the loss of sensible dialogue in public policy. She should listen and stand up.

  17. Submitted by Barry Brent on 11/12/2010 - 12:39 am.

    “calm demeanor”? Did we listen to the same press conference?

  18. Submitted by Fluffy Rabinowitz on 11/12/2010 - 07:03 am.

    The return of Rod Grams..Is this really a good idea? Who can forget Grams wife, Christine Grunhus, (AKA Katie Stevens) no-contest plea to sending disparaging emails about Mike Ciresi under her fictious email name! Bringing back Grams, just reminds voters of the petty nastiness the GOP involved themselves in.

  19. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 11/12/2010 - 07:56 am.

    “Trust but verify.”

    Back at you not so ‘tony’ Tony Sutton.

    Trust-but-verify is a platitude that Reagan liked to quote…but let’s give that all-too-repeated proverb its appropriate source…translation from the Russian that Lenin infamously spoke to his grandmother…”Trust is good but Control is better.”

    ‘Control’ is the key word here; control for its own advantage; disregarding the vote count and the will of people.

    Certainly we’ve gone a long way off-course when the credibility gap is 9000 some votes and the challenge from the Tony-bone crowd is desperately chewing away at the gristle of their own obsessive need to “control” no matter what…and the democratic process has been cast aside.eh?

    Control for its own sake is an ugly performance to watch…

  20. Submitted by Brian Simon on 11/12/2010 - 12:50 pm.

    cyndy brucato writes
    “the belief that the Republicans were out-lawyered in the 2008 Franken-Coleman recount explain Sutton’s choice of a strong legal team”

    Sounds like they’re fighting the last war.

    After all the excessively partisan allegations that SoS Ritchie is a partisan hack in the business of stealing elections, its looking like the changes implemented following the 2008 fiasco have been very effective at improving the voting process. If anything, it will reduce the pool of ballots over which the competing legal teams are able to squabble. Given the larger gap in this election & the likely smaller pool (in percentage terms) over which to fight, its hard to see how Emmer comes out on top.

    Question: do they acknowledge the pointlessness of fighting a lost cause, or hide behind the fig leaf of ‘automatic recount’? The argument that they have a legal right to challenge the results could end up resonating with voters the way Al Gore’s ‘no controlling legal authority’ excuse did (not).

  21. Submitted by Nila Ouska on 11/12/2010 - 12:52 pm.

    I agree that a recount is the law and should happen. I agree that Ms Brucato is proving to be a Republican in journalists clothing. I also agree that it should stop at the mandated recount.

    What I don’t agree with is the Republican party casting aspertions on Mark Richie. He conducted himself admirably in the last recount which was reviewed by 4 Republican judges, 2 democratic judges and 2 other judges (I don’t know their “denomination”). Why can’t the red faced Republican mouthpiece be civil?

  22. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/12/2010 - 03:54 pm.

    The issue is not whether Emmer has a chance;
    he doesn’t.
    The issue is whether a lame duck governor will be able to approve legislation passed by the new GOP leg.

    And despite all the talk about Coleman being ‘outlawyered’ by Franken, I haven’t seen any specifics of how more expensive lawyers would have changed the outcome.
    The votes were what they were,
    and they are what they are.

    And Dodd–
    I’m not aware that anyone has shown that ACORN was responsible for even a single fraudulent ballot cast.
    At the most, they have been accused of making it too easy for poor people to register to vote.

  23. Submitted by Dodd Demas on 11/12/2010 - 08:32 pm.

    @Paul: I don’t know of any ACORN-orchestrated vote frauds either. I was making a sarcastic comment about the use of buzzwords and scare tactics by those who would impugn the integrity of the democratic process for political gain.

    @Nila: I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of M Richie. Brucato’s previous employer, Ch 5 uses a grotesque freeze-frame of Richie in their 5.2 news promos in which an off-camera “interviewer” asks Richie “why won’t you answer the question?” The freeze-frame locks Richie in a contorted face that suggest evasion on his part but offers on substance either on what the question might have been or on Richie’s response. Hubbard Broadcasting deserves nothing but contempt. Maybe they are looking to be a new Fox affiliate.

    Richie’s conduct in the Senate recount was beyond reproach and he kept an entirely professional and calm tone for the entire process. Any suggestion that he did otherwise is both disingenuous and destructive to intelligent public discourse.

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