MN-Sen: I Don’t Trust Tim Pawlenty

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has been making the rounds on cable news today, no doubt working to raise in his profile for 2012 in the wake of his decision not to run for re-election in 2010.  During these interviews, he has suggested that he would not delay the seating of Minnesota’s next Senator.  Election law experts appear unanimous that the Minnesota Supreme Court will affirm the victory of Senator-elect Al Franken.  The reason I don’t trust Pawlenty is that he is leaving himself too much wiggle room.  Watch the exchange in the video below, from Pawlenty’s appearance today on Fox News:

You know, Neil, 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.

Now take into account this report from’s Eric Black back in April:

In a series of email exchanges with Pawlenty’s spokester, Brian McClung, I sought to clarify what level of discretion the guv was claiming over the issuance of the certificate. At first, McClung pointed out that there is no deadline in the law for the issuance of the certificate after the conclusion of the Contest Court process and state Supreme Court appeal. It sounded as if Pawlenty was claiming the right to indefinitely postpone the certificate.

Superficially, Pawlenty is telling us not to worry, that he’s happy to sign on the dotted line.  But he also throws in the caveat “and there’s not an appeal or some other contrary direction from a federal court” which makes me wonder.

Having watched the state Supreme Court’s proceedings on June 1 when they heard oral arguments from both campaigns, I have a very positive impression of the Court and of the Justices’ attention to detail.  Expecting that they affirm Senator-elect Franken’s victory, it would be proper of them to include an order for Pawlenty, in his role as Governor, to prepare and sign an election certificate.  But, given that his staff has noted that there’s no time requirement attached, Pawlenty could very easily slow walk the certificate while Republican Norm Coleman seeks a stay or an injunction on the certificate from a federal court in advance of a federal appeal.  University of Minnesota’s Professor Larry Jacobs explains:

But Jacobs still sees wiggle room here. “Signing it — and how quickly you sign it — those are two different things,” Jacobs explained. “If Norm indicates that he’s going to be filing in federal court, the Governor may just say, ‘you know, I am gonna sign it, I’m just waiting to hear from my legal counsel that this is appropriate.’”

Further, if the state Supreme Court affirms Senator-elect Franken’s victory but doesn’t add in the explicit order to Pawlenty to prepare and sign the election certificate, then who knows!?  At the very least, Pawlenty’s reassuring words are not all that reassuring, nor should they be given the wiggle room those words leave for Pawlenty.  Of course, if Pawlenty deliberately obstructs and delays after the state Supreme Court rules in Senator-elect Franken’s favor, the U.S. Senate is still empowered to seat Senator-elect Franken (and Pawlenty’s delay would likely give Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid the political impetus to move forward with Senator-elect Franken’s seating), but that move still faces the threat of filibuster from Republicans.  If that were to happen, Democrats would likely need a couple of Republicans to buck their Party in the name of supporting the democratic process.  Hopefully this issue will be moot, but it’s never too early for Democrats to reach out to more responsible Republicans like Olympia Snowe and Dick Lugar about their willingness to support Senator-elect Franken’s seating should the eventuality arise.

Will Coleman have a say in this ?

The key, as you stated, is : will the MN-Supreme Court include in its ruling instructions that the certificate must be signed ?
Did you notice that the first question that Justice Page asked Franken’s attorney related to jurisdiction and that the Senate could decide who and when to seat the next Minnesota Senator ?  The Court had previously rejected Franken’s request that a certificate be issued (after the State Canvassing Board ruling) stating that the Senate can do whatever it wants.  It seems to be a balancing act that the Court views its role as only to address the election contest and not tell the Senate what to do.
The interesting question is when the MNSC made their decision on Monday did they even consider the certificate signing question.  Based on the questions that were asked it seemed that they question whether Coleman even had a case.  It could be that they would just deny his request and let the Election Contest Court ruling stand … which would mean that the “signing” question was not addressed.  So right now the five Justices know the decision and we will have to wait weeks while they write the opinion(s).  The Justices know the question exists but they might not feel inclined to get involved in other branches of government’s responsibilities.In the end, Pawlenty does not have much of a choice but to sign … but he has little to lose by taking his time … but then again he has little to gain either.
As a lame duck Governor, his political career may be over.  His options are limited – President or US Senate.  Considering the make-up of the Republican Party, a mid-westerner without any military or foreign experience and without a strong theology base does not offer much appeal to the typical Republican activist.  Remember that Pawlenty was McCain’s Co-Chair — yet couldn’t deliver the MN delegation to McCain even though by that time in the primary season McCain was clearly the nominee.  A 2012 Presidential campaign would be over after Huckabee wins Iowa again and Romney takes New Hampshire — actually a 2012 Presidential campaign would largely be a campaign for the VP slot … yet he has little to offer in terms of policy, experience or connections.

The other option would be to seek a seat in the US Senate.
In 2012, Klobuchar’s seat is up.  Obviously, it’s too far out to speculate what will dominate the economy and world affairs at that time, but considering that Klobuchar and Obama dominated Minnesota in their last respective elections, it would be a difficult campaign (instead considering redistricting,  the MN-GOP may be inclined to pick Michele Bachmann as their nominee.)
So after 2012, the next Senate race would be 2014 … and defending his seat will be …. Al Franken.
A Pawlenty v Franken race would be too inviting to pass up.
By that time, most Minnesotans will have long forgotten how long it took Pawlenty to sign the certificate.  To the MN-GOP, Pawlenty has been the Guardian Angel for No New Taxes and Coleman only lost because Ritchie wouldn’t count all of Coleman’s votes (never mind that 63,209 McCain voters did not want Coleman to get another term.)  And as a sitting Senator, Pawlenty would have a better shot at a 2016 Presidential run.

The odd thing is that for all the discussion of whether to sign, Pawlenty has publicly stated that Minnesota is being short-changed without two Senators.

Lastly will Coleman have a say in this.  With Pawlenty not seeing a third term, will Coleman assume the martyr role, and “accept” the MNSC ruling (even though he knows his right) and not appeal to the Federal Courts ?  Considering that polling indicates that Coleman should not appeal, he may want to seek state level office in 2010.  Oh sure the Governorship is available … but if he really wants “fix” all the problems in the election system, he should challenge Mark Ritchie for Secretary of State.

by: Minnesota Central @ Thu Jun 04, 2009 at 08:22:37 AM CDT

Pawlenty speaks again.

From HotlineOnCall ” … if the court issues a directive to do that, I certainly will do it. I’m not going to defy a Minnesota Supreme Court order. So we’ll follow the direction of the court.”  Pawlenty said Coleman will have to decide, however, what to do if the court does not rule in his favor. “That’s really up to Norm,” he said. “That’s not for me to say. He’s going to have to weigh and measure a lot of factors in that situation, including the liability of his case, what’s good for the country, what he feels like doing, any many other things.” Sure sounds like Pawlenty will ONLY sign if the MN-SC tells him.  For someone that was a practicing attorney and the elected Governor, he seems unable to read the law and interpret in a manner that would benefit the citizens of Minnesota.

Click here for the new senate guru blog…

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