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Don Davis, Published July 02 2009

GOP chairman accuses Dems of fixing election

ST. PAUL – Minnesota’s new Republican chairman used his first day on the job to come out swinging against Sen.-elect Al Franken.

Shortly after Democrat Franken’s supporters rallied at the Capitol on Wednesday, Tony Sutton accused Democrats of fixing Franken’s election against Republican Norm Coleman. “They stopped finding votes when they got enough. ... We got robbed.”

Sutton hinted the election and an ensuing recount and court battle over the counting of absentee ballots will taint Franken’s senatorial career.

“This guy has a bigger asterisk behind his name than Barry Bonds,” Sutton said, referring to the record-holding baseball player accused of using banned performance-enhancing drugs.

Sutton said the Senate election’s outcome, decided Tuesday by the Minnesota Supreme Court, could fire up enraged Republicans. It could “really motivate people to get out and work hard,” he added.

Sutton strongly criticized the court decision in a letter to Republican leaders.

“The court’s ruling wrongly disenfranchises thousands of Minnesotans,” Sutton wrote. “There were unacceptable disparities in the way Minnesotans’ ballots were treated based upon the counties in which they reside. Democrats seized on these disparities and hunted for ballots so they could win the election through the courts. This is completely unacceptable and we will never let it happen again.”

Faster resolution

A key state representative wants to find a better way to resolve election disputes like the U.S. Senate race that stretched on for eight months.

“Minnesotans have had only one U.S. senator for over five months and if Sen. Coleman took this to the U.S. Supreme Court, it could have been much longer; this just isn’t fair to the citizens of Minnesota,” Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said. “Providing a provisional certificate of election to the winner of the recount is a common sense remedy that would ensure this never happens again.”

Kahn is chairwoman of a House committee that deals with such issues.

Her proposal would allow a temporary election certificate to be granted, and thus a person seated in the Senate, until legal challenges are exhausted. Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court rejected a Franken attempt to give him an election certificate before Coleman’s court case played out.

“If this law had been in place, Franken could have received a provisional election certificate and been sworn in to office with all the other U.S. senators,” Kahn said.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com