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Coleman vs. Franken: the never-ending Senate race just keeps going

May 11, 2009 |  5:44 pm

Energizer_Senate_Race

It’s been 160 days (and counting) since the election and Minnesota still seems no closer to affirming a second U.S. senator.

And in a storyline so convoluted as to baffle even the cast of “Days of Our Lives,” the soap-operatic fight between Republican Norm Coleman (the uber-determined former senator) and DFL-er Al Franken (who currently holds a slim lead) is ratcheting up another notch this week.

Here’s where things stand right now:

A three-judge panel ruled last month that Franken had finished ahead of Coleman by 312 votes, and that Franken should be given an election certificate that would allow him to be seated as a U.S. senator. Coleman subsequently appealed the election-trial ruling to the state Supreme Court, and argued that the panel relied on a different guideline for counting thousands of disputed absentee ballots than was in place on Nov. 4. Hence, his attorneys said, the panel violated the voters’ constitutional rights of due process (because of the different rules used) and equal protection (because similar ballots were counted in different ways).

This afternoon, the Franken camp filed its reply to Coleman’s brief to the state Supreme Court. It argued that the political satirist won the race fairly and that the various ways Minnesota counties handle absentee ballots did not violate voter rights. Coleman’s attorneys are expected to respond by week’s end. What’s their solution? To count an estimated 4,900 absentee ballots that the panel excluded.Norm_Coleman

If you want to read the filing yourself, and the courthouse paper trail leading up to it, check out this section of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s website

Did I say 160 days? Make that 170 days…

Even if the court issues a decision from the bench when both parties make their oral arguments in St. Paul on June 1 – and I wouldn’t hold your breath, quite frankly – the matter still likely won’t be over.

Over the weekend, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune asked GOP chairman Michael Steele whether Coleman should step out of the way. His response was short.

“No,” he said, according to the paper. “Hell, no.”

Instead, opined Steele, Coleman will take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. “Norm Coleman will not, will not jump out of this race before that,” he told the Star-Tribune. Marc Elias, Franken’s attorney, growled at the thought. “This is going to be decided by the Minnesota courts. At the end, [Franken] will be entitled to an election certificate and be Minnesota’s next seated senator,” Elias said today.

And Steele? “He has a number of things to focus on right now with running the RNC. He should focus on that,” Elias said. Al_Franken

In the meantime, the man who would be senator has been holding meetings with advisors and interest groups at home, and preparing for an office he’s still not sure if (or when) he’s going to get. Either way, Franken won’t be working out of Coleman’s old office digs in St. Paul. Even if Coleman wins out, Coleman may not either. The office is being leased out. It turns out that the Senate doesn’t have the authority to maintain a commercial lease beyond an elected official’s term.

Make that 188 days. And counting...

--P.J. Huffstutter

Middle photo: Norm Coleman. Credit: Associated Press

Bottom photo: Al Franken. Credit: Getty Images

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