Minn. gov. prepared to stay on until vote decided

Published 1:30 pm Wednesday, November 3, 2010

ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Wednesday he is prepared to extend his term as governor if a recount in the race to replace him drags into the new year.

The two-term Republican told The Associated Press he won’t resign or otherwise step away from his post until a successor is known.

“Any of my personal plans or concerns are secondary to the fact I have a duty and responsibility to fulfill under the constitution,” Pawlenty said. “I’m not going to walk away from that.”

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As it stood Wednesday morning, Democrat Mark Dayton’s unofficial lead over Republican Tom Emmer was within the bounds of a mandatory statewide recount. There were election returns from all but 19 precincts statewide, with Dayton leading by 9,257 votes out of more than 2.1 million cast.

With redistricting and control of the state’s finances in the balance, there was little incentive for either man to concede. Also, the race stirred memories of Republican’s 2008 overtime loss to Democrat Al Franken for Minnesota U.S. Senate.

Pawlenty was due to leave office in early January and will release a book soon after. He has said previously he’d decide on a possible presidential run by March. He declined to say how the overtime stint could affect his announcement on a 2012 bid.

Republicans promised an aggressive fight, hiring attorney Michael Toner to aid in a recount. Toner has also done work for Pawlenty’s national political action committee.

The 2008 recount and court case involving Franken and then-Republican Sen. Norm Coleman stretched on into the following summer, leaving that office vacant while the process played out.

Democrats were already expressing concern that Pawlenty, coupled with new GOP majorities in the Legislature, would rush through laws that a Gov. Dayton wouldn’t support.

“We just have to discourage people from getting ahead of themselves about speculating,” Pawlenty said. “This has to be done in proper order in a measured and appropriate way.”

On Laura Ingraham’s national radio program earlier Wednesday, Pawlenty drew a distinction between the 2008 race that was separated by a couple hundred votes before the recount.

“We have got to find something of significance because a few votes here or there won’t make up a 10,000-vote difference,” Pawlenty said of the GOP.