Amid preparations for a potential statewide recount and heated allegations of voter fraud made by his party’s chair, Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer remained silent for six days.
He appeared Tuesday for the first time since election night, echoing statements made by his opponent Mark Dayton last week. Emmer said the recount process should be allowed to proceed as scheduled and that it should be "fair, open and honest."
Despite trailing Dayton by about 8,750 votes, Emmer said he will see the probable recount through. After the State Canvassing Board certifies election results on Nov. 23, Dayton would have to lead by about 10,500 votes — or just more than one-half of 1 percent of the 2.2 million ballots cast — to avoid a recount.
If necessary, the recount is scheduled to be completed by mid-December, according to Secretary of State guidelines.
Emmer did not specify whether he’d file a lawsuit if he can’t catch up to Dayton’s totals this time around.
"I don’t think it’s an appropriate question at this point," Emmer said. "I think you’ve just got to let the process play itself out, then abide by the results, assuming they’re legal."
Emmer implied that absentee and military ballots and an investigation of an election night hiccup in Hennepin County could be the key to his victory in a recount.
Election officials in Hennepin County hit the wrong button while transmitting vote totals, effectively doubling the number sent, county elections director Rachel Smith said. The problem was quickly fixed.
"It wasn’t a counting error," she said. "It was a reporting error."
But the mix-up still concerns Emmer and his party. Chairman Tony Sutton said last week his party wouldn’t get "rolled" again like they did in the lengthy 2008 U.S. Senate recount between Al Franken and Norm Coleman.
Emmer deflected questions about Sutton’s comments, using softer language than members of his recount team. He echoed a recent phrase by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, saying, "The Minnesota voters have spoken. We just don’t know what they said yet."
Meanwhile, Tony Trimble, one of Emmer’s attorneys, told the Associated Press, that the chance the campaign would concede because of Dayton’s lead was "none whatsoever."
Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, authored legislation adopted after the 2008 recount to streamline the process. He released a statement Tuesday criticizing Emmer for "preparing to drag our state through the mire of a protracted lawsuit." In turn, Emmer asked if the Republican legislative takeover had jarred Winkler’s head.
The Republican Party of Minnesota announced Tuesday that former Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson would head Emmer’s recount team.
"As a former member of the State Canvassing Board, Eric understands the issues at stake during this process," Sutton said in a statement. "I know he will do his part to make certain that every legally cast vote is counted."
The Dayton campaign is one step ahead of Republicans. It announced a team of key players Monday involved in transitioning Dayton into the governor’s office, although he hasn’t won.
Included in the list are former chiefs of staff for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and the Minnesota State Senate.
Emmer said he "ran to win" and has been prepared to take over leadership since the campaign. He will announce a transition team in a few days.
Pawlenty and Emmer met Monday to discuss the transition. They didn’t discuss the possibility of Pawlenty remaining in office past his normal term if the recount drags on, Emmer said. Dayton met with Pawlenty on Tuesday.
"I don’t know what the next two months will hold," Emmer said. "It’s very possible that 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."