One week post election, gubernatorial fights are shaping up

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November 8, 2010

By Eileen McGuire-Mahony

All over America, transition teams are in overdrive and newly elected officials are memorizing the rules of office. Yet, gubernatorial contests in Minnesota and Connecticut remain undecided this morning. Minnesota looks headed for a legally required recount. Both are swirling with threats of lawsuits and allegations of improper conduct. In each case, a Democrat holds a small lead. And in each case the state's Democratic Secretary of State is under fire for allegedly biased behavior.

The Democratic Governors Association has released a statement touting their victories and counting both states as victories.[1] An earlier statement from the Republican Governors Association praises their candidates for winning races in key swing states for the 2012 Presidential contest.[2] The RGA has not yet formally commented on the DGA's assertion that it has won Minnesota and Connecticut.

However, the RGA publicly stated a goal of reaching 30 governorships. They sit at 29, with two states out. Winning either one will put a feather in their cap. Alternately, if they come up short, the DGA can claim to have held the GOP to the lowest possible gains in what was a terrible election night for Dems.


2010's closest governor's race is't over by a long shot.

While race watchers were pegging Florida as the state most likely to require a recount before a governor-elect was certified, Minnesota was quietly delivering a razor slim margin that favors Mark Dayton of the Democratic Farm-Labor Party...for now. Dayton leads his Republican opponent, Tom Emmer by 8,749 votes, giving him a current margin of 0.42%. State law requires a recount for margins under 0.50, meaning Minnesotans could well be waiting until December to have a final talley. If held, the recount will begin November 29th and take approximately two weeks.

Minnesota's State Canvassing Board will meet on November 23rd and certify the vote. If the gap between Dayton and Emmer has not widened to beyond half a point by then, the recount will proceed. Republicans could theoretically sue if they lose the recount. However, some election law experts doubt there is anything strong enough to give the Minnesota GOP grounds to bring a suit.[3]

The state's media are already writing as if the recount is a certainty and Minnesota's GOP has announced the hiring of staff to handle the recount.[4] Gopher state Republicans think they may also have found grounds to bring a possible lawsuit challenging the impartiality of the election process. Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, who owns a lively Twitter feed at "mrritchie," is taking heat for election nights posts that Republicans are saying show he had decided to award the race to the Democrats before votes were even in.[5][6]

The comments in question were "re-tweets" in which Sec. Ritchie posted pieces of opinion journalism. The articles, one of which came from the attorney who led Al Franken's Senate recount battle two years ago, stressed the uphill battle that Tom Emmer faces to make up his deficit against Mark Dayton. GOP officials have said it is inappropriate for Sec. Ritchie to have linked to such articles. Several tweets came from the Minnesota office of left-leaning grassroots group Common Cause while another referred to GOP complaints about voting problems as "overheated."

Sec. Ritchie's office has declined to comment, saying they do no respond to "partisan attacks."[7]

In Connecticut, the gloves are off

Meanwhile, a small corner of New England is becoming the unexpected center of an increasingly bitter fight over voter intentions. After being called for Democrat Dan Malloy, uncalled, challenged, and finally called for him again, Connecticut's gubernatorial contest may come to an end later today.

Republican Tom Foley, who has yet to concede, has announced a press conference for 1 pm EST, now delayed until 2 pm, in which he will announce what he plans to do next.[8] Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz has awarded the victory to Malloy for a second time, and this time she hopes it sticks. Meanwhile, Foley has hinted he may pursue legal avenues to force a recount. Under Connecticut law, statewide races only go to an automatic recount if the difference between the winner and second-place candidate is 2,000 votes or less. Malloy currently leads Foley by slightly more than 5,000 votes. If he chooses to sue for a recount, Foley has until November 16th to bring suit.

Foley has raised the alarm over the unexpected appearance of a gym bag full of ballots during a Thursday night manual recount in Bridgeport, Connecticut and has chastised Sec. Bysiewicz's office for having called the race only to backtrack later. Also causing bad blood is a controversial emergency court decision that allowed Bridgeport polls to stay open two hours after they should have closed. When the city ran out of ballots, lawyers for Dan Malloy and staff attorneys from Sec. Bysiewicz's office petitioned a judge to allow polls to remain open and to use photocopied ballots. Given Bridgeport's Democratic advantage among registered voters, it is not surprising that Foley's legal counsel opposed the petition.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch has announced he will form a committee to examine why 21,000 ballots were printed for a city with 69,000 voters on the rolls. Outgoing Gov. Jodi Rell has signaled she may order an inquest at the state level. Bridgeport has not seen a low enough election turnout to justify printing so few ballots in half a century. Mayor Finch has stressed that the municipality's financial troubles are not the reason for the paltry ballot order.

Sec. Bysiewicz's office has released a new set of official numbers, but Foley hasn't backed off his assertion that, "her [Bysiewivz's] personal credibility is completely shot."[9]

The Republican Governor's Association has waded into the fray, saying, "Tom Foley led this race every step of the way until the Democratic Secretary of State chose sides and apparently started counting photocopied ballots and ballots cast after the polls closed."[10]

Connecticut State Republicans echoed this support: "Tom Foley is correct in seeking a full, complete and accurate count of the votes cast Tuesday. It is clear the interests of the citizens have not been served by elected officials who have announced unofficial and inaccurate voting numbers to declare Dan Malloy the winner of the gubernatorial race." Currently ahead and with the Secretary of State ready to declare him the winner, Malloy has stayed relatively quiet. When he did release a statement along with his running mate, Nancy Wyman, it read, in part, "As is the case with more than a few other races in other states across the country, this race is taking a few extra days to play out. Nancy and I think it should be allowed to play out in an orderly fashion and we support the process established by law."


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