Minn. GOP gov. candidate not talking lawsuit — yet

Published 8:19 am Wednesday, November 10, 2010

ST. PAUL — Republican Tom Emmer pushed aside questions Tuesday about whether he’s willing to go to court over the Minnesota governor’s race, saying they were premature ahead of a forthcoming recount.

Emmer, who trails Democrat Mark Dayton by 8,750 votes, said there are enough concerns about the current tally to let the process play out.

“I don’t know what is going to happen,” Emmer said in his first public appearance since Tuesday’s election. “All I know is, at the end of the day Minnesotans need to have confidence this was done in a fair, open and honest manner.”

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He added, “It’s very possible the outcome could be that we’re in the governor’s office. By the same token, the outcome could be that I’m looking for a job.”

A recount is automatic if the margin is less than half a percentage point, as it is expected to be when the results are certified later this month.

Both sides are gearing up for the postelection fight likely to stretch into December and possibly beyond. And both candidates say they are engaging in a transition process so they will be ready to govern once the winner is declared.

Minnesota Republicans added muscle to their recount team Tuesday, hiring former Chief Justice Eric Magnuson as the top litigator on Emmer’s behalf. Magnuson served on the state canvassing board during the 2008 recount that resulted in Democrat Al Franken’s Senate victory. Magnuson, an appointee of outgoing Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, stepped down from the state Supreme Court last summer, citing personal reasons.

The Republican legal team is led by Washington lawyer Michael Toner.

Emmer said he is “involved” in decisions regarding his candidacy but declined to characterize himself as “in charge.” His recount efforts are being coordinated by the state Republican Party.

“There’s going to be more people than just one ultimately,” Emmer said of the decision-making process.

Dayton has retained lawyers who worked for Franken two years ago and set up a recount team distinct from the state party.

“I’m responsible for my campaign. I’m responsible for the recount. I’m responsible ultimately for the decisions made regarding the recount,” Dayton said.

Dayton has also formally opened a fundraising account to finance activities related to the expected recount. An adviser filed a form with the Internal Revenue Service on Monday to establish the Dayton Recount Fund. No similar account exists for Emmer.

The Dayton filing was made by Ken Martin, who is heading the former senator’s recount team. State campaign regulators have previously said that normal fundraising rules, including donation limits, don’t apply to a recount.

For the second straight day, Pawlenty met privately with one of the men who could succeed him. He had a discussion with Emmer on Monday and spent an hour with Dayton on Tuesday.

Dayton said Pawlenty offered perspective on the state budget, security matters and even a tour of the governor’s mansion.

“The clock is ticking here. We’re now less than two months away until Jan. 3,” Dayton said. “There’s a huge amount to do in terms of addressing personnel and addressing the budget.”

Dayton said he’ll begin working toward building an administration but isn’t at the point of offering cabinet posts to anyone. He said he plans to meet Wednesday with budget officials from previous administrations to get their advice.

Pawlenty said he wants to help both men get ready to take the reins. He’s made top budget officials and other advisers available to discuss a transition complicated by the recount.

If the race isn’t resolved by the scheduled Jan. 3 inaugural, Pawlenty would see his term as governor extended.