BREAKING: MN Supreme Court: Franken Won (UPDATED X2)

It’s been nearly 8 months since Election Day.

It’s been more than 6 months since Inauguration Day.

And, finally, Minnesota’s outstanding Senate race has been decided.

Minnesota’s Supreme Court has affirmed [PDF] that Al Franken is the duly-elected junior Senator from Minnesota, having garnered more votes than former Senator Norm Coleman.

Of course, Franken still needs a certificate of election signed by his state’s governor, Republican Tim Pawlenty. But Pawlenty said that he would abide by the Supreme Court’s decision:

Minnesota law does not allow the governor to sign an election certificate until the state court process is complete. And when it is, and they direct me to sign the certificate, I’m going to sign it. There’s not going to be any undue delay or the like. But I’m going to follow the direction of the courts in that regard and we’re going to be having a decision here in the coming weeks … I have to follow the law. If the Minnesota Supreme Court says, “You sign the certificate” — and there’s not an appeal or some other contrary direction from a federal court — you know, that’s my duty. I can’t just ignore that or say I don’t feel like following a directive from the Minnesota Supreme Court. That would not be the responsible thing to do.

[Emphasis mine]

There’s a chance that Coleman could appeal this decision to the federal judiciary, which may give Pawlenty room to once again put off signing a certificate.

But the Minnesota Supreme Court should be the final say in this case, and they have resoundingly affirmed that Al Franken is the junior Senator from Minnesota.

UPDATE: I should note that the decision was unanimous–the court ruled 5-0 in Franken’s favor.

Here’s the key part of the ruling:

For all of the foregoing reasons, we affirm the decision of the trial court that Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast and is entitled under Minn. Stat. § 204C.40 (2008) to receive the certificate of election as United States Senator from the State of Minnesota.

UPDATE II: Norm Coleman just conceded; congratulations to Senator Al Franken!

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BREAKING: Arlen Specter To Switch Parties, Run As Democrat In 2010 (UPDATED X5)

Welcome home, Arlen.

Welcome home, Arlen.

The Washington Post has it:

Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and announced today that he will run in 2010 as a Democrat, according to sources informed on the decision.

Specter’s decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next Senator from Minnesota. (Former Sen. Norm Coleman is appealing Franken’s victory in the state Supreme Court.)

“I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary,” said Specter in a statement. “I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.”

[Emphasis mine]

This changes everything.

UPDATE: First, there’s the question of what Specter’s switch puts back on the table–since he doesn’t have to pander to the right wing of his party anymore, will he vote more liberally? Will it be easier for the Democrats to win him over on key votes now?

Second, this puts even greater pressure on Norm Coleman to step aside in Minnesota–Al Franken would give the Democrats a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority, thus making the resolution of MN’s Senate contest even more important.

Third, this throws the entire PA-SEN race into disarray. Will more Republicans join Pat Toomey in vying for the GOP nod? Will any Democrats challenge Specter in the Democratic primary?
If a Democrat challenges Specter from the left, could he be pressured to vote more liberally–like how Toomey’s challenge from the right pressured Specter to vote more conservatively?

We have no answers yet, but this is undeniably good news for the Democrats and bad news for the GOP. I wonder how small the Republicans’ tent can get–it’s already looking pretty tiny from where I’m standing.

UPDATE II: MSNBC is reporting that one of the conditions of Specter’s switch is that nobody is allowed to challenge him for the Democratic nomination. I’m not exactly happy about that, but I guess I’ll accept it.

And I want to remind everyone that Specter won’t be a party-line vote–in fact, I predict there will be a number of times he votes against the Democratic caucus, just as he voted against the GOP caucus. He won’t be a reliable 60th vote, but he will be a 60th vote, and that’s what matters.

UPDATE III: The entire conservative movement is currently having a sour grapes party; you can practically smell the vinegar from here.

Even though Specter’s switch puts the GOP’s Senate caucus at 40 members, the fewest they’ve had since January of 1979, they’re still pretending that Specter’s departure is a good thing.

Because sitting by and watching all the moderates abandon your party in droves has done wonders for the GOP since 2005, right?

UPDATE IV: Whether or not you think this is good news for the GOP depends on whether or not you think Pat Toomey can beat Arlen Specter.

Problem is, PA has been trending bluer for a long time. For instance, compare the results of the 2000 Senate election to the 2006 Senate election:

2000

Rick Santorum: 52.4%

Ron Klink: 45.5%

2006

Rick Santorum: 41.3%

Bob Casey: 58.6%

Or look at how many Congressional seats have changed hands in the past 4 years alone:

2005

GOP: 12

DEM: 7

2009

GOP: 8

DEM: 11

Or look at the popular vote shift between the 2004 and 2008 Presidential elections:

2004

Kerry: 51%

Bush: 48%

2008

Obama: 54%

McCain: 44%

No matter how you look at it, PA has been trending bluer in the past few years; it isn’t particularly fertile ground for Republicans, let alone far-right Republicans like Pat Toomey.

Plus, Specter has the advantage of being a longtime incumbent, is regarded as a well-respected Senate moderate, and his party switch is already being spun as him putting his beliefs ahead of partisanship.

Toomey won’t win. He might be more popular than Specter among Pennsylvania Republicans, but Pennsylvania Republicans haven’t been the majority in Pennsylvania for a good long time.

UPDATE V: More proof that PA has been getting more hostile toward Republicans:

1998

Arlen Specter: 61%

Bill Lloyd: 35%

2004

Arlen Specter: 52.6%

Joe Hoeffel: 42%


Throwing In The Towel (UPDATED)

Former Senator Norm Coleman has found himself a new job:

Last session’s senior senator from Minnesota Norm Coleman, still battling Al Franken to be seated in the Senate, has taken a paid job as a consultant to the Republican Jewish Coalition, which harshly attacked Obama last fall, its executive director, Matt Brooks, said.

Coleman will join the group as a “consultant and strategic advisor,” and will also travel the country fundraising on the group’s behalf, Brooks said.

“It’s an opportunity for him to, now that he’s got some down time on his hands, to really help us while this case is being adjudicated,” Brooks said. “He hasn’t given up at all” on retaking the Minnesota seat.

That’s not the behavior of a candidate who won his last election; it’s the behavior of a candidate who packed up his office and is moving on.

Coleman knows he lost, that much is obvious.  The question is, how long will it take him to officially give up the ghost? Now that he has endeared himself to the Republican establishment by keeping Al Franken out of the Senate–landing himself a nice right-wing welfare job in the process–how long will he keep the charade up? When will he finally let the people of Minnesota enjoy their right to full representation in the Senate?

I can’t imagine the people of Minnesota are too happy that their former Senator won’t let their duly-elected representative take office. And I can’t imagine the people of Minnesota will be very forgiving to the Republican Party in the future after this gambit is all said and done.

UPDATE: More from Nate Silver:

But what is Coleman’s angle here? Increasingly, I think this is being driven by John Cornyn and the [NRSC], and that they’ve given up on beating Franken but merely want to bloody him, casting doubt over the legitimacy of his election in order to make him a focal point for Republican angst. If this were a generic Democrat instead of Franken, in other words, I think the Republicans might already have given up. But because Franken has the potential to be a polarizing figure, there is more incentive for them to fan the flames a little bit; the recount merely provides the pretense for them to do so.

MN-SEN: Endgame

Recently, both Governor Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie refused to certify Al Franken as the winner of the Minnesota Senate race, citing a state statute that supposedly prevents a certification from being issued until Norm Coleman is finished challenging the election in court.

Now the Franken campaign is suing in order to force Pawlenty and Ritchie to issue a certification, citing a different part of the aforementioned state statute that appears to say something different:

Al Franken’s lawyers really don’t mess around. In a conference call with reporters just now, lead Franken attorney Marc Elias announced that the campaign is filing a lawsuit at the state Supreme Court to force GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to issue Franken a certificate of election, and send him to the Senate.

Elias placed a request with Pawlenty and Ritchie yesterday, which was promptly rejected, arguing that Franken was entitled to a certificate contrary to the conventional wisdom that state law blocks the issuing of a certificate until after Norm Coleman’s lawsuit to overturn the result is settled.

Not so, Elias argues, saying that a different section of the same law would actually require the issuing of a certificate in a legislative contest, with its discussion of revoking an already-issued certificate if the contest concludes with the original loser now on top. “So there is a tension between these two provisions,” Elias said. But he thinks the provision he’s relying upon will trump the other because it is the more specific of the two.

Elias also cited the U.S. Constitution’s requirement that a legislative chamber is the arbiter of a disputed election, as opposed to courts.

[Emphasis mine]

I have no idea whether or not the case has any chance of succeeding, but I do know it’s ridiculous that Norm Coleman can deny the people of Minnesota their right to full representation in Congress just because he doesn’t want to concede an election he fairly lost.

On a related topic, Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats just scored an epic win over Mitch McConnell and the Republicans:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have reached a tentative agreement that would give Democrats a three-seat advantage on most committees during the 111th Congress.

That is a big change from the 110th Congress, when the party held only a 51-49 operating majority in the full Senate and a one-seat edge on most committees.

Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow , head of the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, said Democrats negotiated a larger, four-seat advantage on the Appropriations and Armed Services committees. By statute, Democrats will have only a one-seat edge on the Intelligence Committee and a two-seat advantage on the Joint Economic Committee. On all other committees — except the Ethics panel, which always includes three members of each party — there will be three more Democrats than Republicans, Stabenow said.

[…]

The major sticking point of the lengthy and sometimes difficult ratio negotiations — whether to count the still-unresolved Minnesota Senate election as a Democratic pickup — appears to have been resolved in Democrats’ favor.

Stabenow said the ratios she disclosed Tuesday assume Democrats will enjoy an effective 59-41 edge in the Senate as a whole, a margin the party would achieve only if they win Minnesota.

[Emphasis added]

In other words, the Senate will be organized as if the Democrats won in Minnesota, giving them a bigger majority on nearly every committee.

It looks like the Republican rats are deserting Norm Coleman’s sinking ship.  Or perhaps they just threw him under the bus.  No matter which cliche you prefer, Senate Republicans just showed that they have no longer have any confidence in Norm Coleman.

Mr. Coleman Goes To Court

Surprising exactly nobody, Norm Coleman is challenging the results of the Minnesota recount in court:

Republican Norm Coleman, who received 225 fewer votes than DFLer Al Franken in the U.S. Senate recount, will challenge the result in court. He told reporters at a state Capitol news conference that a lawsuit, known as an election contest, would proceed.

[…]

Coleman, whose Senate term ended on Saturday, began the recount on Nov. 19 with a 215-vote lead. His attorneys have said they believe he would have prevailed if the board had reviewed 650 absentee ballots they say may have been wrongly rejected, along with up to 150 ballots they say were counted twice and 133 Minneapolis votes that were counted using election day machine results after the ballots couldn’t be found during the hand recount.

It’s funny that Coleman is going to fight this for as long as he can, considering:

I guess quitting in the name of healing and unity is only a good idea if you’re a Democrat, huh?

But Coleman won’t concede and we all know why: he has nothing to lose.  Even if he accomplishes nothing but ingratiating himself to the Republican establishment, it will have been worth it.  As Nate Silver said,

Norm Coleman doesn’t have much of a future in electoral politics. Defeated Presidential candidates sometimes have nine lives, but defeated Senatorial candidates rarely do, and in his career running for statewide office, Coleman has lost to a professional wrestler, beaten a dead guy, and then tied a comedian. He doesn’t have much to lose by fighting this to its bitter conclusion.

The longer Coleman fights, the longer the Senate Democratic caucus goes without their 59th member.  And the fiercer he fights, the more he delegitimizes Franken and undermines him as a United States Senator.

In the end, both of those are good for the Republican Party. So if Norm fights hard enough, he might get rewarded with a nice bit of right-wing welfare to help him round out his days in Washington.  Because if we’ve learned nothing else from all this, it’s that Norm Coleman is Norm Coleman’s favorite special interest group.

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) (UPDATED X2)

Minnesota’s State Canvassing Board will make it official today:

The state Canvassing Board was poised to certify the results of the recount in Minnesota’s grueling Senate election in Al Franken’s favor _ but that doesn’t mean the race is definitely over.

The board was to meet Monday and was expected to declare which candidate received the most overall votes from nearly 3 million ballots cast. The latest numbers showed Franken, a Democrat, with a 225-vote lead over Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, who led Franken on election night.

But after the announcement, there will be a seven-day waiting period before an election certificate is completed. If any lawsuits are filed during that waiting period, certification is conditional until the issue is settled in court.

Norm Coleman is going to drag the court battle out as much as possible, since Minnesota law prevents Franken from being officially certified the winner–thus keeping him out of the Senate–until Coleman’s legal challenges are resolved.

I guess I can’t blame Coleman for doing everything possible to win–if the situation were reversed, I’d probably want Franken to do the same. But Coleman knows that it’s unlikely he’ll emerge as the winner, even if the courts rule in his favor.

So while Norm Coleman is doing what’s best for himself and for the Republican Party, maybe he should put those interests aside and do what’s best for the people of Minnesota, who deserve to be represented by their duly-elected Senator.

UPDATE: Here’s the substance of Coleman’s impending lawsuit:

Coleman’s lawyers promised a lawsuit over their claim that some ballots duplicated on election night wound up being counted twice in the recount.

The Coleman campaign also has a petition pending before the state Supreme Court to include 650 ballots that it says were improperly rejected but not forwarded by local officials to St. Paul for counting.

UPDATE II: That was fast:

The Minnesota Supreme Court has rejected Republican Norm Coleman’s request to count an additional 650 rejected absentee ballots in the state’s U.S. Senate recount.

The court’s ruling Monday likely paves the way for the state Canvassing Board to certify results showing Democrat Al Franken won the race. But Coleman’s attorneys have said they are likely to sue if he loses the recount, meaning it could be weeks more before the outcome is final.

Where’s The Beef?

As expected, Norm Coleman is taking the results of the Minnesota recount to court:

In a brief press conference, Norm Coleman’s campaign lawyers reaffirmed that they will challenge the result in court.

Coleman’s lead lawyer Fritz Knaak said the process in the recount was broken, and today’s events were just further proof of that. “We are prepared to go forward and take whatever legal action is necessary to remedy this artificial lead,” said Knaak.

But what, exactly, is their case? Coleman’s previous allegations about duplicate ballots was thrown out by the Minnesota Supreme Court. Simply alleging that the process is “broken” because your candidate didn’t win isn’t enough.

I’m sure Coleman will come up with some kind of justification for their legal challenges, but the fact that they’re going to court first and finding a reason to second is exceptionally telling.