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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: GOP chairman changes from emotional to legal

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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: GOP chairman changes from emotional to legal
Alexandria Minnesota 225 7th Ave E
P.O. Box 549
56308

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's Republican chairman called reporters to his office a block north of 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.

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"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 telephone 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 two sides is how dealt with pictures. Dayton's folks 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Sutton promised to let a photographer in the GOP post, but rescinded the offer.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.

However, 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 than just education, and such a background will be needed as lawmakers tackle a massive state 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.

Sutton said that the Dayton camp can afford more help. "Those guys have a ton of money."

Martin countered with: Although Dayton raised more than $1 million for the recount, it is becoming tough to find more. "People are tapped out."

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. "They also don't have to risk exposing their adoptive children to unsafe immunizations in foreign countries. A child's health and family stability are critical to ensuring successful adoptions, and this new law will allow families to keep their adopted children together, healthy and safe."

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."

Anti-carp bill OK'd

A bill written to prevent Asian carp from spreading in the United States is headed for President Barack Obama's signature.

"Minnesotans take great pride in our lakes and rivers, and there's no place for Asian carp in any of them," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., said. "This invasive species not only kills off our native fish populations, but it also has harmful effects on commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, and boating - this bill will help stop the spread of this dangerous species."

Asian carp are big and bring with them destructive eating habits. They are close to invading the Great Lakes and are moving up the Mississippi River.

Rural leaders named

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 just north of the Twin Cities.

The majority whip will be Rep. Rod Hamilton of Mountain Lake. A whip is key to make 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.

Republicans take control of the House next month after four years being out of power.

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. "I feel terrific."

However, the political lefty and left-hander said, "my handwriting is even more uneven than before."

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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