The likely recount in the Minnesota gubernatorial race, where Democratic former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton currently leads Republican state Rep. Tom Emmer by slightly under 9,000 votes, has presented an interesting possible scenario: Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a potential presidential candidate, could end up staying in office a little while longer if the election gets tied up in the courts -- and with a newly-elected Republican majority legislature, to boot.
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Is it possible that the GOP might try to drag out the recount process to pass Republican-friendly legislation without the threat of a Democratic governor's veto pen? So far, one top Republican, the incoming state House Speaker, has said they wouldn't try to do that -- but they would have to get things done eventually. And the possibility does seem to be hanging over the whole proceeding.
Many observers -- including Fritz Knaak, a former lawyer for Norm Coleman -- have said that it would be very difficult for Emmer to win with the vote numbers like this. But if the process were to drag out, it could result in a Republican governor staying in office longer than expected.
As you might recall from the previous statewide recount in Minnesota, the recent legally contested Senate election from 2008 that resulted in a final 312-vote win by Democrat Al Franken, Minnesota will not certify an election winner in a disputed election until a state legal contest (a kind of civil trial) is concluded. And with the result in that election so close, the recount and subsequent legal processes ended up taking eight months, with Franken not being sworn in until July 2009.
And as we also learned the day after the election, Minnesota's state constitution provides for the current governor, Pawlenty, to stay in office until a successor is determined.