Will Dems get to 59? A Franken/Coleman update

Carla Axtman

While the rest of the U.S. Senate prepares to go into session in January, Minnesota waits to find out who their Senator will be: Al Franken or Norm Coleman. If Franken wins, that brings the number of Democrats in the U.S. Senate to 59.

Senate Guru has the numbers, and a rundown of how the latest shakes out. After many days of both sides disputing ballots and fighting in court--its now down to the Canvassing Board reviewing the challenged ballots.

In a nutshell, after the first two days, Coleman leads by only 4 votes. Guru explains why things are looking better and better for a Franken victory over at his blog. You should read it.

There's also an issue of a significant number of ballots that had been wrongly rejected and must be counted. Today, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled (PDF)that the two campaigns and local elections officials have to figure out a way to count them. This is a net loss for Coleman, who had wanted those ballots set aside (natch). Kos lays it down:

Ultimately, the court's decision will lead to these properly cast votes being counted. But it has taken what should've been a straightforward decision (count the damn things), and turned it into a drama-filled process that will guarantee this thing stretches out into the new year.

I don't know how much money Coleman's got in his legal fund budget, but he's going to need it for more than just keeping Minnesotans from having their vote count. He's also facing some fairly serious corruption charges:

Federal investigators are looking into allegations that a longtime friend and benefactor tried to steer money to U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, the Pioneer Press has learned.

Agents with the FBI have talked to or made efforts to talk to people in Texas familiar with the allegations, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Houston is where the first of two lawsuits was filed alleging Nasser Kazeminy, a Bloomington financier, tried to steer $100,000 to Coleman via his wife's Minneapolis employer. The second suit, filed in Delaware, alleges Kazeminy initially tried to get money directly to the senator.

Both Coleman and Kazeminy have denied any wrongdoing, and Coleman last month said he welcomes an investigation.

Coleman has retained some serious legal guns to mount his defense.

  • YoungOregonMoonNut (unverified)

    Will the Democrats get 59?

    Not without some liberal judge who will rule that an "x" for Coleman is really a vote for Franken.

    Franken is a "fucking loser" in every aspect of the two words in my opinion.

    If he would have won, he would have acquired a clear plurality in the first place, but no! He has to go out like a punk bitch loser and spend his millions as a mediocre comic to contest this meaningless race...

    In the first place, Coleman won and with all the recounts, Coleman is still winning.

    Franken needs to give this up otherwise he will lose it in another 6 years guaranteed.

    I say meaningless because so what if Franken wins? Will Biden make himself like VP LB Johnson and try to be the 101st Senator?

    If so, then God forbid that Republicans use the VP the same way when they have the Executive again.

    Think about the precedent you are setting.

  • John Taylor (unverified)

    Franken as Senator and Jessie Ventura as Governor. What is wrong with Minnesota? Franken is a dishonest little weasel and Ventura was a roid head who had to get advise on how to wipe his ass.

  • Frank (unverified)

    Before I deal with this Rev. Moon Nut...

    Breaking News: Brandon Roy puts up FIFTY-TWO points and leads the Blazers over the Suns!


    ...now, where was I, oh yeah, that Moonie talkin' crazy talk.

    Coleman didn't win fecal matter. Coleman lied (you know.. like almost all Republicans do almost all the time) Coleman did a bad job trying to PRETEND to win an election not one election official in the state of Minnesota would declare a victor in. So close Minnesota law required a state paid recount take place.

    Repeat... Minnesota paid for the recount. Minnesota law requires a recount in a race that finishes that close.

    Gee... the Moonie visiting this blog from either FreeRepublic.com or littlegreenboogers.com has problem with facts. What a surprise.

  • (Show?)

    Smell the fear in the comments!

    "In the first place, Coleman won and with all the recounts, Coleman is still winning."

    Considering there hasn't even been ONE recount completed yet, that's an interesting thing to say. I'm also dying to hear your rationale for disenfranchising absentee voters who voted 100% PROPERLY, but had their ballots rejected due to ELECTION WORKER ERROR. That's what Coleman is fighting--letting those votes be counted.

  • ws (unverified)

    I guess it's understandable that the dems would be excited about reaching the anti-filibuster quota, but is Franken really someone that should be a U.S. Senator? He's got some liberal viewpoints...I guess he's got that going for him....but he doesn't seem to have any political background other than having written satirical political skits and books. He got a lot of votes...I guess that says something.

    His 'Vote for Me...Al Franken!!' skit always seemed funny to me for its send up of the superficiality that escapes from so politicians through their commercials. That isn't enough to make a good senator.

    His website sucks...just tried to log on, but for dial-up people like me, the stupid video he opens it up with won't allow immediately proceeding to the sites home page.

  • edison (unverified)

    59 (or even 60 if Martin had won in GA) doesn't offer much hope. I doubt the Dems will ever vote as a group on anything of substance especially with guys like Evan Bayh organizing a Senate chapter of Blue Dogs. Links: Here http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2008/12/evan_bayh_organizing_senate_version_of_blue_dog_caucus.php and here http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/112748/evan_bayh_forming_blue_dog_caucus_in_the_senate/ How collegial!

  • edison (unverified)

    Not sure those other links copied correctly. ??? This one has essentially the same info re: Blue Dogs in the US Senate.


  • Minnesota Central (unverified)

    The only fact that is known is that Minnesota’s next Senator had 58% of the voters decide that they did not want him to represent Minnesota for the next six years. With only 42% support, incumbent Coleman has been rejected by the voters … but challenger Franken did not impress us either. While MN-GOP supporters are still not happy with ex-Democrat Coleman and openly advocated throwing Coleman under the bus for ideological reasons, the Democrats offered a flawed candidate in Franken who has had no public service experience … thus the appeal for “none of the above” which created 16% support for Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley. The Democrats could have won this election quite easily with a more experienced candidate like Congresswoman Betty McCollum or Congressman Tim Walz.

    The recount has really exposed the flaw in the absentee voting system where voter’s ballots were arbitrarily rejected … including Coleman supporters who are now finding out that their ballots were not accepted. The Canvassing Board will complete its review … who will be in the lead is unknown but the impression is that Franken will have less than one hundred votes lead. Then some (possibly as many as 1600) of the rejected absentee ballots will be reviewed and counted … the overall margin will change but the outcome is still the same … someone will be called the Senator from Minnesota, but he will not represent the majority of its citizens.

    Regarding Coleman’s Nasser Kazeminy problem, he may be the “innocent victim” of an overzealous supporter. What Kazeminy is accused of doing is clearly wrong, but it may be very difficult to prove that Coleman “knew” what was going on. His wife’s “work” had been questioned for months prior to the lawsuit … if she was doing anything regardless of how much she was paid. What is clearly inappropriate (but done too often) is that Coleman is using campaign monies to pay for legal representation in this investigation … if he has done nothing, then he should wait until someone alleges that he did something.

  • rick g (unverified)

    Please don't pretend this was an honest election. The Democratic Party is turning the US into a Bananna Republic.

  • Eric Parker (unverified)

    I like Bananas :)

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Boy, we do love the winner take all mentality! Let me guess. No one here will celebrate it the less, if he wins. Honestly, don't you have a problem with the balance of the Senate, a state's ambitions and all the rest coming down to 4 votes? Is everyone that thinks this looks unseemly a "nattering nabob"?

    I was shaking my head at this talking to a Pakistani cricketer on the phone last night, and, being from a terrorist infested country that doesn't enjoy our level of democracy, he naively asked, "you mean they don't seat each for half the term"?

    Boy, have they got a lot to learn!

  • Mike Schryver (unverified)

    "Please don't pretend this was an honest election"

    This was an honest election. Evidence for believing otherwise, please?

  • (Show?)

    For what it's worth, Eric Kleefeld over at Talking Points Memo posted what he called The Worst Ballot Challenge of All late yesterday as an indication of why Coleman is likely - and deserves - to lose this election:

    Looking back over today's meeting of the Minnesota state canvassing board, it's become painfully clear that Norm Coleman's big problem is that his ballot challenges are made up almost entirely of brazenly frivolous attempts to get votes for Al Franken thrown out. During the recount proper, that puffed up his apparent lead. But now we're at the point where all those challenges are resolved -- in other words, he can't hide behind these tricks anymore. To be fair, Franken had his share of hopeless tries to toss Coleman votes, but it was nowhere near this bad. This one might just be the worst of all. The Coleman campaign tried to get a vote for Franken thrown out because the voter had written on the ballot. What'd they write? Thank you for counting my vote! Is there anything more that needs to be said?
  • Boze Noze (unverified)

    Mike:"This was an honest election."

    133 ballots found in a heavily D precinct. Just coincidence? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/12/05/franken-scores-more-ballo_n_148750.html

    If you believe the recount process has been honest, then I have a Senate seat in Illinois to sell you.

  • Mike Schryver (unverified)

    "133 ballots found in a heavily D precinct. Just coincidence?"

    I asked for evidence, not speculation or innuendo.

  • (Show?)

    I thought they were 133 ballots that were lost, not found.

    Republicans are still claiming that the 2004 Washington governor's race was "stolen" in spite of the evidence.

  • Tom Carter (unverified)

    I'll admit that I don't know a whole lot about Coleman. My impression is he's pretty much an average senator, no better or worse than the rest of them, which isn't saying much. I know more about Franken, and I'm underwhelmed. I listened to him quite a bit on Air American, and I've read about things he's said and done. I don't want him in the Senate, regardless of his party or his politics. I think his presence would cheapen the institution, which is saying a lot.

    I think the media is driving us to put too much importance on the idea of the Democrats having 60 senators. Granted, 60 is the magic number needed to impose cloture and prevent a filibuster, a concept that has in recent years been warped totally beyond recognition, in historical terms. Practically speaking, 58 or 59 is a solid majority in the Senate. Most questions aren't settled on pure party-line votes, and there isn't a whole lot of party discipline in our system, anyway. In most cases, there are going to be a few senators from one side voting with the other, and they generally manage to work things out.

  • Displaced Oregano (unverified)

    I'm a displaced Minnesotan too, born there. And I met Al Franken, over 25 years ago, when I worked lights and sound for a comedy show for Franken & Davis. They were among the nicest performers I ever met (of hundreds), and used some of their (not-large) fee to take the crew out to a great dinner. He IS smart (try writing comedy sometime), and as a radio guy he interviewed and spoke with almost all of the power players in DC, certainly the democrats. He is way more qualified to be a US senator than the many who run just because they happen to have a few dozen million dollars to blow on a ego boost.

    He may not have been the best choice for a democratic candidate, mostly since a life doing comedy on videotape provides lots of out-of-context material for opposition campaigns to exploit. Given that, he earned the nomination with a couple years of boots-on-the-ground work and organizing. He won that election. He will win this one, and not based on legal tricks....his position has simply been that every legally cast ballot should be counted, with a open and fair process to determine the voters intent if there is any question.

  • Albert Kaufman (unverified)

    Franken is ahead by 250 right now! Star Tribune If Franken wins this will so make my day!

  • Steve (unverified)

    Go Stuart Smalley Go!

    Give him enough time and he'll manufacture enough votes like th Gov of Wash did.

  • LT (unverified)

    There is a wonderful biography of Charles McNary (the man so many landmarks in Oregon--esp. in Salem area--are named after) who was one of Oregon's longest serving senators and Oregon's only VP candidate.

    The biography was written by Steve Neal, graduate of McNary High School.

    Early in his career, McNary ran for something statewide. It was a close election. He wisely took his family on vacation until it was decided because it was the recount from Hell. In the process, days or weeks after the election, someone in a small town like Prineville opened a closet and found a box of ballots never counted. And we think Florida in 2000 was a mess??

    Why don't we call a truce--Gore really won Florida, Rossi really won Washington--if that would allow everyone to treat every current/future recount as a distinct event. I think Lonsdale should have beat AuCoin in the 1992 Senate primary but the recount said AuCoin won by 330 votes statewide. These things happen, and people have to learn to move on with their lives.

  • wikiwiki (unverified)

    YOMoonnut: "Will Biden make himself like VP LB Johnson and try to be the 101st Senator?"

    Horrors!! You mean, Biden might actually cast a tie-breaking vote if the Senate is equally split, 50-50, thereby requiring a 51st vote? Is that even constitutional?? I have to go sit down!!

    What would really freak me out, though, is if Biden insisted on being the last person Obama spoke to before he was allowed to make an important decision. Or if Biden tried to claim that the VP didn't belong to either the executive or legislative branches, depending upon what he was trying to hide. Or if Obama had appointed Biden to a study group to pick the best vice-presidential candidate available, and Biden turned around and appointed himself!! Of course, we know the Republicans would never do anything like this.

    Zarathustra: "Don't you have a problem with the balance of the Senate, a state's ambitions, and all the rest coming down to 4 votes?"

    If all the votes were properly counted, or adjudged to have been properly counted (with public transparency possible at every step of the way), not at all. Though, with that kind of margin, the election would likely end up in one court or the other anyway, and not be decided by the voters who the election winner would represent.

    There seems to be a lot of dissastisfaction with Franken as a candidate for MN-Senate. It's not quite clear what kind of voting record he'd have, or that he'd truly represent the legacy of Paul Wellstone, an inspiration to me. But I don't think it can be argued that he did not win a very competitive primary process, or that he did not spend the requisite amount of time and effort to go out and meet with the voters who would elect him. Coleman has played dirty just about every step of the way, filing a lawsuit close to the end of the election (again), claiming some kind of defamation or the other, claiming that the current lawsuits against him are politically motivated, without a shred of evidence to back it up. I'm proud of Franken, and the way he has hung in this election, when he could so easily have given up at several different points. However effective Franken was on/at Air America, he did the best he could to take on the institution of talk radio, when not a lot of other people would. If he manages to let some air into a very exclusive club (the Senate) that needs an airing-out, so much the better. Al Franken is one of my heroes.

  • Frank (unverified)

    On dissatisfaction with Franken as a candidate...

    I personally want more people in government who have been successful in the real world. I didn't hear any Republicans whining about the lack of public service experience The Guvernator or Sen. Bill Frist had when they were running for office.

    My main problem with Al Franken was he seemed to go out of his way to dismiss the idea that the GOP was stealing elections in 2000 and 2004. Sorry Franken had to learn the hard way the GOP can and will try to steal every election it's in. Just glad Franken figured out the GOP was trying to steal HIS election just barely in enough time to keep his election from being stolen right out from under him. Al Franken has had to learn the hard way how important an issue election reform is.

  • (Show?)

    To me, this election is more important than Republicans or Democrats or getting to 59 in the U.S. Senate. It is about the importance of counting every vote.

    In Oregon, as long at voter intent is clear, we count every vote. If your ballot won't go through the machine (bent, torn, you wrote on it, you made a mistake and crossed one vote out and voted for someone else, etc.) a panel of people work to recreate your ballot so it can go through the machine. It's done by a group of election workers that come from various parties and is overseen by the parties, representatives for candidates, etc.

    We go through this process so we can ensure that all votes are counted. Coleman wanted to not count votes just because they wouldn't go through the machine, someone had written on the ballot, etc. That is absolutely ridiculous. As long as it is clear what a voter's intent is, the vote should be counted.

  • wikiwiki (unverified)

    Points well taken, Frank. Although, once Franken did catch on that his election was being stolen, he appeared to combat it more vigorously and tenaciously than most other Democrats I'm aware of have done in similar situations. I hope that Democratic candidates and senators in future close elections or procedural vote counts will stick to their guns as well.

  • (Show?)


    To be fair, I've reviewed (and anyone can review--examples are being posted at Minnesota Public Radio and at the Star Tribune) the ballot challenges from both sides, and both sides look pretty bad in this election.

    i don't know if Coleman's challenges are on balance more bogus than Franken's, but no one is going to come out of this election looking very good.

    Voter intent is a very slippery concept and there are very few standards or rules in place to help us understand what "intent" means. "As long as voter intent is clear" is not at all a simple guideline.

  • rural resident (unverified)

    Several times over the past few days, I've watched the streaming video of the Minnesota Canvassing Board provided on the Star Tribune web site. The five members of the board have been even-handed and deliberative. They've discussed individual ballots and have tried hard to get inside the heads of voters to discern intent. They've stretched a few times, but they've stretched both ways.

    There are both Democrats and Republicans on the board. However, almost all of the time, all five have voted the same way. If this happens here, I'd like to think that we would be as diligent as the Canvassing Board has been.

    paul g. ... Coleman challenged about twice as many ballots as did Franken. Part of his strategy was to keep ballots from being counted so that he would maintain a lead for a longer period. I guess the theory is that whoever leads longest wins??? Clearly, many of his challenges were specious. On one ballot, not only had the voter clearly (and darkly) filled in the oval for Franken, but also he wrote next to Franken's name, "I vote for Al F." The Canvassing Board had a good laugh over this, speculating that maybe Coleman challenged the vote because the voter wasn't enthusiastic enough.

    Coleman's strategy has been straight out of the Bush 2000 playbook. Limit the number of voters by targeting potential opposition voters and having them removed from the rolls. Try to maintain the appearance of a lead, even if one doesn't really exist. Ask the courts to stop the recount and, if unsuccessful, to deny counting of votes that are likely to favor the opponent. It worked before, but it isn't going to work this time.

  • (Show?)

    Rural I am not trying to justify Coleman's challenges, but I've seen a whole lot of specious Franken challenges as well.

    <h2>This is political hardball at its finest, and I don't think either candidate is particularly saintly.</h2>

connect with blueoregon