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Emmer plans for transition, just in case

ST. PAUL -- Tom Emmer said he soon will announce a transition team in case he overcomes am 8,751-vote deficit to become Minnesota governor.

But in a 20-minute news conference today, the Republican candidate repeatedly refused to say whether he planned to challenge any recount in court or even whether he or the Republican Party is calling the shots.

"I'm just trying to let the process go," the state lawmaker said over and over.

He was asked several times whether he or party officials were making recount decisions. "I'm absolutely going to be involved," he said, but others also will be.

Emmer said there are so many questions left after last week's election that state and local officials need to check their work before a Nov. 23 State Canvassing Board meeting. That is when a recount will be ordered if the vote margin with Democrat Mark Dayton remains this close.

Republicans say absentee ballots, military votes, election machine malfunctions and others leave the election in doubt.

Emmer trailed Dayton at mid-afternoon 919,231 to 910,480. County canvassing boards are going through returns they already have turned in to the secretary of state's office. They are not counting every ballot again, but that may occur after the Nov. 23 meeting. However, Emmer could tell the state not to go through a taxpayer-funded recount.

After a recount, the trailing candidate may take the election to court, like U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman did two years ago before eventually losing his re-election bid to Al Franken.

Also today, Republican leaders announced that former Minnesota Chief Justice Eric Magnuson will be chief litigator for Emmer's recount fight.

Magnuson resigned last year, after serving on the nonpartisan panel that recounted ballots in the 2008 U.S. Senate race.

"Eric is an enormously talented litigator who is independent minded, thoughtful and substantive," Republican State Chairman Tony Sutton said. "As a former member of the State Canvassing Board, Eric understands the issues at stake during this process. Eric is a tremendous addition to our legal team, and I know he will do his part to make certain that every legally cast vote is counted."

Washington, D.C. attorney Michael Toner leads the GOP recount team.

Dayton was to meet with Gov. Tim Pawlenty later in the day to discuss a possible transition if he is declared the winner. Emmer met with Pawlenty Monday.

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.