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MINNESOTA POLITICS: Minnesota GOP chairman changes from emotional to legal

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's Republican chairman called reporters to his office near the state Capitol the day after the election to outline what he saw as irregularities in voting, irregularities he said could affect the governor's race.

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's Republican chairman called reporters to his office near the state Capitol the day after the election to outline what he saw as irregularities in voting, irregularities he said could affect the governor's race.

"The race for governor is not over," Sutton declared in an emotional, rising voice. "We are concerned there are so many discrepancies."

He wanted all the publicity he could get, complaining about Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and how the Nov. 2 election was run.

Fast-forward to the past few days and find a different Tony Sutton. He still says there were voting problems, but he is not inviting media into GOP headquarters. He talks on the phone with reporters but is much more reserved.

His job now, it appears, is coordinating a team gathering evidence for a possible election court case in the Democrat Mark Dayton-Republican Tom Emmer governor battle.


Sutton said his job is to make sure "Republicans have confidence in the election, win or lose." In an interview, the Hibbing native made it clear that going to court may be how to accomplish that goal.

"We are in the process of putting together a potential case in case we decide to go that route," he said.

The governor recount is due to end Dec. 14 with the State Canvassing Board declaring a winner. The loser has two weeks to file a court case, which happened in the 2008 U.S. Senate recount.

Sutton changed his media strategy when his focus turned to a court case.

Most telling of the differences between the sides is how they dealt with pictures. Dayton's people welcomed video and still photographers into their recount center, where on the recount's first day, 100 people worked.

Sutton promised to let a photographer in the GOP post but rescinded the offer.

"Why let the opposition into the huddle?" party spokesman Mark Drake asked. "Why hand over your playbook?"

Money background


People from both political parties have praised Minnesota House Republicans for hiring a former Education Department official to lead their caucus.

Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, said the selection of Chas Anderson bodes well for education in the coming legislative session.

But Anderson also spent time as a chief aide to Dave Bishop, a former Rochester lawmaker and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. That gives her a broader view of financial issues. Such a background will be needed to tackle a massive budget deficit.

Work or not?

More than 3,000 Minnesotans volunteered to help the two governor candidates during the statewide recount, with Democrat Mark Dayton getting far more people than Republican Tom Emmer.

Minnesota GOP Chairman Tony Sutton, whose party is running the Emmer recount effort, said there was a reason his candidate was outmanned.

"Our people work for a living," Sutton said. "Our people have to take off work to do these things."

But when Dayton recount director Ken Martin was asked, he said the same is true for Dayton volunteers, with most taking vacation days from work. In talking to volunteers, Dayton himself mentioned a teacher who took all three of her personal days off to aid in the recount.


On the recount's first day alone, Martin said, more than 2,000 Dayton volunteers were in place. Emmer had about 600, Sutton said.

Adoption law signed

A bill championed by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota allowing American parents to adopt foreign sibling has been signed into law.

"Parents from Minnesota and across the nation don't have to worry any more about splitting up families when adopting internationally," Klobuchar said.

Existing law makes children 16 and older ineligible for international adoption, which can split up brothers and sisters.

Minnesota leads the country in international adoption rates.

Dayton credits ex

Politico, the Washington political news source, was there when Mark Dayton credited his former wife for helping him in the Minnesota governor's race.


"Dayton, who is clinging to a 9,000-vote lead over Republican Tom Emmer in the still unresolved Minnesota governor's race, said if it had not been for the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, he would have likely come up short," Political reported. "Fueled by labor unions and Dayton's ex-wife, Alida Messinger, the alliance raised several million dollars to air television ads against Emmer. According to Factcheck.org, Messinger poured $500,000 of her own money into the effort."

Rural leaders set

With both of the top House Republican leadership roles filled by Twin Cities representatives, some rural lawmakers now are in leadership positions.

The newest assistant majority leader was elected by his fellow freshmen. He is Rep.-elect Kurt Daudt of Crown, who lives on a farm once owned by his grandfather north of the Twin Cities.

The majority whip will be Rep. Rod Hamilton of Mountain Lake. A whip makes sure Republicans are on the same page on critical votes.

Other assistant majority leaders include Reps. Bob Gunther of Fairmont and Paul Torkelson of southwestern Minnesota's Nelson Township.

Hamilton, who raises hogs, was an interesting pick as a leader after he famously voted to override a Gov. Tim Pawlenty veto of a transportation funding bill, against the wishes of Republican leaders.

Neck fine


Mark Dayton said his pain in the neck is no longer, but if he is elected governor, he may have trouble signing on the dotted line.

The Democratic governor hopeful underwent outpatient neck surgery last month and now says that is healed.

But the left-hander said, "my handwriting is even more uneven than before."

Davis reports for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.

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