Welcome Journalist, Author, Jay Weiner, and Host, Phoenix Woman.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

This Is Not Florida: How Al Franken Won The Minnesota Senate Recount

Phoenix Woman, Host:

Jay Weiner’s book is to my knowledge the first on a race and recount that captured the nation’s (or at least the press’) attention throughout much of 2009. Unfortunately, I suspect that it is likely to be the only one, as the media has long since moved on to other things. This is a pity as the race was too big a happening to be covered fully by just one book, even one written by MinnPost’s Jay Weiner.

The U.S. Senate race in Minnesota in 2008 was indeed a historic event, but not altogether unprecedented. In fact, its course and outcome were largely dictated not by Marc Elias, Fritz Knaak or any of the high-profile players in the recount that followed, but by how Minnesota’s legislators responded to similarly-close races in the past. While altogether too much of the airwaves and too many computer and TV screens were taken up by self-proclaimed experts simultaneously bemoaning the “chaos” (and who used language remarkably similar to those Republican operatives and their media pals who were urging Al Gore to just give it up already back in December of 2000), persons who were old enough to have taken an active interest in Minnesota politics in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s were calmly and accurately predicting what would happen next and why it would happen. The law and the procedures for following it were and are, despite the shrieking of the talking heads, quite clear for the most part; the error of the talking heads was to confuse lengthy and painstaking deliberations with unendurable chaos.

While Weiner does a very good job at providing a tightly-focused “you are there” perspective to his narrative, doing an almost hour-by-hour retelling of the major occurrences of the recount, there are things that of necessity get left out of his slim tome, things that the tight focus on day-to-day events does not allow tend to get neglected; one of these things being the climate, culture and legal framework that made the recount possible. It was in large part the work of Minnesota’s Democratic Farmer-Labor governor, Rudy Perpich, and the DFL state legislature of the early 1980s that made possible the relatively orderly progress of the recount. Joan Growe, the secretary of state from 1975 to 1999, set up an elections system capable of withstanding the worst insults inflicted upon it by Mary Kiffmeyer, who thankfully had been succeeded by the upright and capable Mark Ritchie in 2007. (How bad was Kiffmeyer? Among other things, she worked to have fellow Republican Tom Heffelfinger removed from his U.S. Attorney appointment because he’d complained about her efforts to suppress the vote on college campuses and Native American reservations, groups that tend to vote for Democrats when they do vote. ) Ritchie had just finished cleaning up Kiffmeyer’s messes when he was confronted by the Franken-Coleman recount; to his lasting credit, he did not let the constant stream of verbal abuse, harassment and death threats from Republicans in and out of Minnesota rattle him, but did his job for the most part calmly and effectively, something Weiner does have the space to document.

Another thing that gets somewhat short shrift, again no doubt because there’s only so much that can fit into a 288-page book, is the essential Minnesotan essence of Al Franken, and the thread of involvement in Minnesotan affairs that runs through his adult life. One thing that has always irritated me (and I hasten to add that Weiner is not guilty of promoting this frame) is the standard media narrative that the New York transplant Norm Coleman, whose wife spends most of her time in Los Angeles looking for acting jobs and promoting her various business enterprises such as Blo-n-Go, is a genuine Minnesotan; whereas Franken, who not only was born and grew up in Minnesota but kept up his contacts with the state –particularly with Paul Wellstone, who he knew and admired long before Wellstone’s death in 2002 — during his years living and working elsewhere, is (again per the standard media narrative) framed as a carpetbagger from New York and/or Hollywood. Yet it was Al Franken who, when the national Democratic party had written off the underdog progressive Democrat Wellstone in 1990, came and did two fundraisers for Wellstone that kept his scrappy underdog campaign going against the forces of incumbent Republican Rudy Boschwitz, who had $11 million – a tremendous sum for a Senate candidate at the time – with which to bludgeon Wellstone. Wellstone went on to shock the world by winning the election, but he couldn’t have done it without Al Franken.

All in all, Weiner’s book is an engaging read, and I hope that there’s still enough interest in the subject to allow him to do a fuller, revised and broader-focuses edition in the future.

138 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Jay Weiner, This Is Not Florida: How Al Franken Won The Minnesota Senate Recount”

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Hi, this is Jay Weiner, the author of “This Is Not Florida: How Al Franken Won The Minnesota Senate Recount” and I’m ready to chat about the book.

BevW October 31st, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Jay, Welcome to the Lake.

Phoenix Woman, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

egregious October 31st, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Welcome to Firedoglake – so glad you could join us!

dakine01 October 31st, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Good afternoon Jay and welcome to FDL this afternoon.

Hello PW!

Jay, I have not had an opportunity to read your book so forgive me if you address this in it but why do you think it was so difficult for the TradMedia to grasp that Minnesota had a well defined process that was not chaotic?

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Welcome, Jay! Hey, you’re right on time. That automatically puts you one up on most Book Salon guests, in my experience. :-)

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Honored to be asked and part of this great program.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Let me start with dakine01 . . . First, the major media outlets became relatively bored with the recount weeks into it.

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 2:03 pm

A couple of quick questions to start things off:

What did we learn from this 2008 Minnesota recount that can be applied to any recounts in 2010?

Conversely, what about the Minnesota history and climate — legal, cultural and political — serves to differentiate this recount from Florida’s or other recounts in other states?

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:03 pm

As you recall, the November and December periods were super active with the Barack Obama victory and his putting together his administration.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:04 pm

By the time December rolled around, the recount was being covered by a small group of local reporters. And, also, I think only a few media outlets viewed the process here as “chaotic.”

Let me get back to that, if you’d like, after I respond to Phoenix Woman’s opening questions, OK?

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 2:05 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 7

They certainly did. Then again, there weren’t any cute blondes like Paris Hilton involved.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:05 pm

No only I – but I think the two major political parties – learned a ton from the 2008 Minnesota recount.
I wrote a long piece in the Washington Post two Sundays ago that outlined that. If you’d like I can post a link to that here for the participants. Is that allowed?

dakine01 October 31st, 2010 at 2:06 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 7

As a technical note, there is a “Reply” button in the lower right hand of each comment. Pressing the “Reply” will pre-fill the commenter name and comment number being replied to so that it is easier for others to follow the “conversation”

Note: Some browsers do not like the “Reply” if it is pressed before a page completes loading after a page refresh

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 2:06 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 10

Actually, you can answer Dakine’s first if you like, since he got there ahead of me. Besides, I’m interested in the national media reaction, just as he is.

dakine01 October 31st, 2010 at 2:07 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 12

yes thank you

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:07 pm

But beyond that, I think any recounts that pop up next week — and there will be a handful, I believe — will borrow from the template established here.

If you’re ahead by a little, don’t assume victory. If you’re behind by a little, look under every rock for votes that may not have been counted. If there are absentee ballots in an election, make sure they are being accepted (or rejected) lawfully.

Data collection by each candidate is important, too.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:09 pm

I’ll get back to Dakine in a sec …

As for Minnesota’s political climate: we have been a pretty open state — every phase of this recount was streamed on the web via The UpTake, our sort of psychedelic C-SPAN (as I call it in the book.)

We have a tradition of being very democratic (with a small d) and our court system is known to be relatively apolitical. All of those things lend itself to a fair recount.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Again, I’m not so sure that most of the national media saw complete chaos here in Minnesota.

The Wall Street Journal did, but its editorials were remarkably inaccurate. Even one of the judges on the State Canvassing Board felt compelled to write to the Journal to point out its inaccuracy. That’s rare for a judge to do that.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:12 pm

I think the media culture saw Minnesota as some sort of rube state, spending too much time on an election.

The Jay Lenos and David Lettermans of the world made fun of Minnesota, comparing it to Afghanistan’s recount, etc.

But the “national media” generally kept a distant eye to the recount, moving in and out of it.

I think that a few outlets, such as Fox News and MSNBC, were weighing more often, and

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:13 pm

their respective points of view were adopted.

A lot of the TV stuff was about fundraising for each side.

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 2:14 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 17

It was gratifying to see the number of people who followed The UpTake’s live coverage. I remember chatting with people from the UK who were watching!

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 2:14 pm

New York transplant Norm Coleman, whose wife spends most of her time in Los Angeles looking for acting jobs and promoting her various business enterprises such as Blo-n-Go, is a genuine Minnesotan

So what has the genuine Minnesotan been doing lately did he follow his wife to LA? Wasn’t he involved in a few fundraising scandals? Just who paid for his court challenge to Al? What was Norm’s final cost for his court challenge?

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Did that answer those questions?

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:15 pm

OK, on to ThingsComeUnDone . . .

Of course, I didn’t write the intro to this session, Phoenix Woman did. I don’t agree with her that somehow Sen. Franken was “more” of a Minnesotan that Sen. Coleman. They each had their Minnesota years and their New York years.

But, Coleman has been mentioned as a possible leader of the GOP nationally, and you should watch for that after this election.

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Jay, I apologize for the lack of Minnesotans besides ourselves here so far — I think they’re all watching the MN governor debate!

RevBev October 31st, 2010 at 2:16 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 18

I think WSJ had that sort of distorted position re. Bush/Gore also, per Gigot. He just wanted Gore to fold.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:17 pm

He has a think tank in DC. He’s been lobbying for a conservative Jewish organization.

The total cost of the recount – not the campaign – was $20 million.

Franken’s side spent about $13 million and Coleman’s about $7 million.

All of the contributors were listed in FEC data, and the usual suspects gave money. Franken’s group was peppered with Hollywood types. I write about that in Chapter 5 of the book.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Well, it’s been argued and detailed in Jeffrey Toobin’s book, “Too Close To Call,” that Gore sort of did fold.

He should have sought a statewide recount in Florida.

One of the lessons of Florida for the Dems was to not give up or back down. That’s why the Dems were so aggressive in Minnesota. They carried a certain vengeance from the Florida defeat.

Similarly, I believe any recounts in 2010 will have the Republican rallying cry of: “Remember Minnesota!”

Already, the GOP has a new web site called “NoMoreFrankens,” and it’s telling supporters to watch out for recounts.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:21 pm

by the way, here’s a link to that Washington Post Outlook piece I did, if you’re interested.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/15/AR2010101502804.html

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 2:21 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 24

Coleman still has a future in politics after the beating George Galloway gave him?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Galloway#U.S._Senate

Doesn’t the GOP have a better talent pool than that?

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 2:22 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 24

Of course, I didn’t write the intro to this session, Phoenix Woman did. I don’t agree with her that somehow Sen. Franken was “more” of a Minnesotan that Sen. Coleman. They each had their Minnesota years and their New York years.

I think PW was going for Snark:)

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 2:22 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 24

To paraphrase something that Franken once said, he and Coleman are both New York Jews, with the main difference being that Franken was born here. ;-)

But I am surprised at how successfully the idea got planted that Franken hadn’t had anything to do with Minnesota since his college years, when in fact he was involved in Minnesota affairs off and on for much of his adult life. His relationship with Paul Wellstone’s 1990 campaign, for instance — the two fundraisers he did helped keep the lights on during a time when the national party had yet to lift a finger for Wellstone. (That of course would soon change, when Rudy did that stupid letter gambit to Minnesota’s rabbinical community.)

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Don Henley of the Eagles, TV anchor Jane Pauley, actors Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen. financier George Soros, actor Michael Douglas — they were among Franken’s donors.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Snark is good. I’m all for Snark. It keeps book salons lively!

Well, I don’t know who “plants” ideas, but Franken did have to move back to the state after not having lived here for a long while. But, yes, his connections to Wellstone were deep and long.

Coleman, of course, had been St. Paul’s mayor and had run for governor and his kids grew up here in Minnesota . . .

The “carpet bagger” notion was easy to pin on Franken, but I do agree with PW that Franken’s political links to Wellstone were important . .. but here’s why (in my view)

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 2:27 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 28

Already, the GOP has a new web site called “NoMoreFrankens,” and it’s telling supporters to watch out for recounts

.

Whats the GOP’s likely plan for recounts then they are already crying vote fraud in several minority races and they are already attacking Dems physically.
Thats not the behavior of a party that expects to win or back down. Will they do more Brooks Brothers riots to stop recounts rather than trust the courts?

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Franken’s decision to run came in the wake of Wellstone’s tragic death just days before the 2002 election.

Polls showed that Wellstone was going to defeat Coleman. In a sense, Coleman became an “accidental Senator,” and he won, in a certain way, because of the way Wellstone’s public funeral event was spun by Republican pundits.

That outraged Franken. He wrote about it brilliantly in The Truth (with Jokes)

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Later, he was appalled at Coleman’s criticisms of Wellstone.
So, the Franken-Wellstone connection is deep and emotional and important.

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Didn’t Norm get stuck paying Al’s court costs? Has Norm paid that bill yet?

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 2:29 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 28

Yup, I’ve seen the banner ads. Big and Scary Franken Eyes!

GlenJo October 31st, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Jay, thanks for bing here. Can you discuss how Franken’s recount vs. Gore’s recount has changed Dem attitudes towards future recounts.

I live in Washington, and watched the Gregoire/Rossi recount and was glad to see that the Dems didn’t give up or give in.

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 2:31 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 36

I myself was somewhat skeptical of Franken’s candidacy at the outset. Then I remembered how well researched his previous political books were. This is a guy who is either really, really smart and hardworking, or has someone looking after him who is really, really smart and hardworking.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Brooks Brothers riot. What an image?!?!?!

I would suspect that the official GOP will use the courts very wisely during any upcoming recounts.
Clearly, some very conservative/Tea Party-ish type groups are already claiming “voter fraud” in various elections … even here in Minnesota. I know that their facts are often wrong.

But I would suspect that we will see the GOP learning from the Minnesota experience: do NOT assume victory in a close race or CONCEDE defeat in a close race.

Each state has a different political and legal culture — as PW implied in one of her opening questions — so understanding the local idiosyncrasies is important.

But a Brooks Brothers riot? I want to see that on YouTube!

RevBev October 31st, 2010 at 2:31 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 37

Did that kind of personal animus come out in the race? the Recount?

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 2:32 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 36

Coleman became an “accidental Senator,” and he won, in a certain way, because of the way Wellstone’s public funeral event was spun by Republican pundits.

Karl Rove thinks that Minnesota should be a GOP state thats why he moved the GOP convention there can any of the Minnesota people here explain Karl’s reasoning to me? Also is your Governor planning to run for President and is Rove still backing him and Norm?

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Hi GlenJo … You have mentioned another key recount that laid the groundwork for Franken-Coleman, and that was Gregoire-Rossi.

It didn’t get the national attention that even the Minnesota recount did because it was a gubernatorial race, the 60th Dem in the US Senate wasn’t at stake, and a celeb like Franken wasn’t involved.

Not coincidentally, Kevin Hamilton, who was Franken’s lead trial lawyer in Minnesota, was among Gregoire’s lawyers in Washington AND the matter of absentee ballots was involved in Washington, too.

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Jay, it might be interesting to discuss how the Franken and Coleman legal teams were created. Franken’s team specializes in fighting appellate cases, so attorneys I know have told me. How did Norm Coleman’s legal team coalesce?

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:35 pm

So the Gregoire victory was a key to the attitude in Minnesota. As I quote a GOP operative in my book, “We thought it would be Florida, but it was Washington State.”

The GOP assumed a short, shutdown recount in Minnesota, but got a long, detailed, data-focused recount instead.

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 2:36 pm

http://www.rawstory.com/rawreplay/2009/08/05/maddow-similarities-between-brooks-brothers-riot-and-health-care-teabaggers/

Video I think of the BrooksBrothers riot no time to play it to make sure I don’t want to miss the book club.:)

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Wow, I’m juggling a bunch of questions here.

For Bev: Yes, there was great personal animus in what was a nasty, dirty, negative commercial filled campaign that cost each side about $20 million. So, $40 million total for election and then anotheer $20 million on the recount.

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Karl Rove is a master bluffer. Remember, this is the guy who, when he was in high school, brought a big shoebox full of index cards to a debate tournament, far more than any other kids brought, to make it look like he was super-prepared. Turned out the cards were blank.

Minnesota’s had a Republican governor for the past two decades, but the most popular one, Arne Carlson, is not the sort of Republican Karl Rove likes.

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 2:38 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 47

The GOP assumed a short, shutdown recount in Minnesota, but got a long, detailed, data-focused recount instead.

Why assume a short recount how does a short recount help the GOP?

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:40 pm

PW — on the legal teams. I spend a lot of time in the book on this.

Franken’s legal team was assembled early because of the vision of his campaign manager, Stephanie Schriock, a brilliant political strategist and fund raiser who is now the President of Emily’s List.

But PW, your sources are wrong: Franken’s legal team was focused on experienced recount trainers and operatives — such as Chris Sautter, the most experienced Dem recount lawyer in the nation. Marc Elias, the “quarterback” of the legal team is an elections law expert … but had never argued before any Supreme Court any where.

Kevin Hamilton of Seattle and David Lillehaug of Minneapolis are superb trial lawyers, plus there were a bunch of younger lawyers. That team was in place within days of the election.

dakine01 October 31st, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Probably because (if I remember correctly) Coleman was leading initially so they figured things would just be a short (and perfunctory) recount rather than a detailed, in depth recount that found Franken votes.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:41 pm

As for Coleman’s team: some of it was in place soon after the Election, but they didn’t have the weeks to prepare as Franken’s legal squad did. This was a critical part of the recount: preparation.

Ultimately, Coleman’s lead trial lawyer, Joe Friedberg, was hired about 10 days before the election contest trial started. Meanwhile, Hamilton and Lillehaug of Franken’s team, were preparing for a trial for months.

On the appeals, Elias argued for Franken.

In any event, I credit Schriock for her longterm vision of where the recount might be headed.

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 2:44 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 50

Karl Rove is a master bluffer.

I was assuming I was missing something because I could find no reason for Karl’s reasoning but master bluffer?
Maybe the GOP and MSM think he’s great but thats only because Spineless Dems refuse to call his bluffs. In the end you look at what you won at the end of the night. Rove won bush 2 terms yes but Rove also helped create the worse President ever.
Rove helped discredit the Army by pushing for 2 wars we have lost. Rove discredited the entire Chicago School of Economics, No Child Left Behind, Katrina, Terry Schiavo, Privatizing Social Security! imagine if Rove had won that battle?
Heck we attack Obama for acting like Bush.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:44 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 54

Dakine, yes, there was a presumption that “If we’re ahead we will stay ahead.”

Historically, that’s true. Very few recounts have flipped elections. But very few are this close, either.

As for my use of the word “short”: I don’t think the GOP anticipated the detail to which the State Canvassing Board analyzed challenged ballots and then absentee count. That process wnet on longer and allowed for Franken’s legal team to make headway on the important absentee ballot matter.

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 2:46 pm
In response to dakine01 @ 53

Where did Al find his votes why did everyone think Norm was ahead at first?

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:46 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 56

By the way, I don’t recall any Karl Rove involvement in this Minnesota recount.
There was certainly an effort to delay Franken’s seating and delay the arrival of a 60th Dem Senator.
But Sen. Coleman had the right to a trial and an appeal, so I’ve never begrudged him that, even if other more partisan types have.

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 2:47 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 52

Wow, I’m juggling a bunch of questions here.

We’re keeping you from getting bored, I hope!

Jay, from what I was told (and yes, I am definitely not a lawyer), Perkins Coie — Elias’ firm — did and does lots of appellate work (http://www.perkinscoie.com/appellate/), which is one reason why it was considered a good firm for this since it was known well ahead of time that any lower-court verdicts would be appealed to at least the MN Supreme Court.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Coleman WAS ahead at the start of the recount … by a total of 215 votes out of more than 2.9 million.
This is a state of 87 counties. With that sort of math, a recount needs fewer than 3 votes per county to switch for that 215 to be overcome.

In any election — every election — vote tallies change when counties and cities perform the final tally.

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 2:48 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 56

I don’t think the GOP anticipated the detail to which the State Canvassing Board analyzed challenged ballots

Challenged ballots made the difference why were the ballots challenged in the first place? I assume the GOP this election plans to challenge any Dem ballot they can. Do the Dems plan to follow Al’s lead this election?

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 2:50 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 58

By the way, I don’t recall any Karl Rove involvement in this Minnesota recount.

Nope, there wasn’t. I think he was too busy licking his wounds after being so wrong about “the numbers” in November 2008. Rove’s stock wasn’t particularly high during 2009.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Let me explain. Take the Amy Klobucahr-Mark Kennedy election of 2006, when Sen. Klob wins by a ton.

When the final tally was establshed by Elections officials, Klobuchar lost 666 votes and Kennedy 3,520.

In 1998, Coleman, running for guv, saw an increase of more than 10,000 votes at the canvass.

Things always change: distant precincts come in late, ballots are found in piles.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:52 pm

But, more specifically, during the recount, his side challenged ballots on voter intent more wisely.

And then the inclusion of previously rejeceted absentee ballots helped.

Yikes, I haven’t typed this fast since typing class in 11th grade!

RevBev October 31st, 2010 at 2:52 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 60

Was this a fascinating book to write? We followed the recount very closely, and it was certainly interesting for the process, if nothing else.

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I can’t see Norm being a player in politics after loosing to Al at least not without a God Father bank rolling him and giving him a job to rehabilitate his image who is Norm’s God Father and why back a moron like Norm although to be fair the Tea Baggers this election make Norm seem smart and sane.
I am wondering why the GOP can’t find better candidates?

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:53 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 59

PW, Perkins does all sorts of stuff.
But Franken’s legal team stayed the same throughout and didn’t bring in any big-hitter appeals guys.
Elias handled it himself.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:55 pm

on the challenged ballot issue.

During a recount in Minnesota, every ballot is examined, all 2.9 million, in this case.
Some times sloppy voters don’t fill in the oval properly. (Ballots here are like the College Boards, you have to fill in an oval.)

Other times, people write in goofy votes — Lizard People, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Brett Favre — and then the other side challenges that vote.

Unless there’s a recount, there’s no way to challenge ballots that are cast.

I guess the GOP (or Dems) could challenge VOTERS during an election, but not ballots … unless there’s a recount.

youmayberight October 31st, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Why would FDL have you on the Book Salon when the Vikings are playing a late game? Well, maybe it’s better for the rest of the world that Minnesotans might not be engaged here.

Mauimom October 31st, 2010 at 2:58 pm

when the national Democratic party had written off the underdog progressive Democrat Wellstone in 1990

Gee, I see the DNC has had practice in their current behavior.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 2:58 pm
In response to RevBev @ 65

It was fascinating for me because it was my first toe in the water around politics.
I was a sports writer for 27 years. I covered some politics because I covered the public funding debates over stadiums. but I never covered a campaign.

I followed every nook and cranny of the day-to-day stuff, but the most fascinating was reporting back on the events AFTER Franken was sworn in. I spend about three months doing behind-the-scenes reporting in the fall of 2009 to find out what REALLY happened.

As for writing it, writing is always a journey, but I had a good sense of how things should piece themselves together.

Margot October 31st, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Thanks for writing what looks to be a very interesting book, judging from your answers here in the book salon.
I read all I could in the news and on blogs and never felt there was chaos. It seemed that Minnesota had “laws” and “rules” and they actually followed them.

Jane Hamsher October 31st, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Thanks so much for being here today Jay, and thanks PW for hosting.

Jay, can you tell me how it complicated things when Harry Reid came out and said they would not seat Roland Burris without a signed certification?

I had heard it threw quite a wrench into the Franken situation.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5045LF20090106

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:00 pm
In response to youmayberight @ 69

Yes, the Vikings and politics don’t mix … but I will be following their stadium debate next year, so then they WILL mix!!

BTW, and PW knows this, one of Norm Coleman’s major campaign TV ads during the US Senate race, was his promotion of helping to bring back NHL hockey to Minnesota as mayor of St. Paul.

Sports, politics, lawyers, coaches, candidates, quarterbacks … what’s the difference?

Oh, right: real world v. fake world.

RevBev October 31st, 2010 at 3:00 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 71

Thank you…Looks like you knew you had a good story.

Mauimom October 31st, 2010 at 3:01 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 25

Or, could be they’re watching the Vikings vs. Pats.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:01 pm
In response to Margot @ 72

Yep, I write and, in the end, I conclude, that the rules were in place and were, more or less, followed.
That’s how we got the title “This Is Not Florida.”
A MN Supreme Court Justice warned a Coleman lawyer not to evoke the politicization of the Florida recount, and he hollered at the lawyer, “Counsel, this is not Florida!!”

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:04 pm
In response to Jane Hamsher @ 73

Good question … there were differing opinions within the Franken legal team about whether to push to seat Franken before the end of the full legal process in Minnesota.

Reid at one point wanted to get Franken to DC ASAP, even before the election contest trial ended.

Remember, after the recount — even before the inclusion of absentee ballots — Franken led by 49 votes and the State Canvassing Board, including the Chief Justice of the MN Supreme Court, said Franken had won.

BUT, in order to get to DC, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sec of State Mark Ritchie had to sign an election certificate. They refused.

AdamPDX October 31st, 2010 at 3:05 pm

“Blo-n-Go”….

ROFLMAO

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 3:05 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 54

Speaking of the legal teams: Many old-school lawyers I talk to disagree vehemently with the idea of lawyers talking out of the courtroom about cases that they’re arguing inside a courtroom, on the idea that you’re on the hook if what you say outside of court misrepresents in any way what went on in it.

We all know that Marc Elias did indeed hold press conferences and occasionally got in trouble for things he said at them. But I seem to recollect that many of the press conferences held by the Coleman side featured people who were not at the time officers of the court — thus, they were under no stricture to avoid misrepresenting what was going on.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:06 pm
In response to Jane Hamsher @ 73

Franken’s lawyer Marc Elias went to the MN Supreme Court to get them to force Pawlenty and Ritchie to sign the certificate. Elias got beat up bad by the Supremes.

I write extensively about this in the book. It turned out to be among Elias’s major (and only) mistakes.

In the end, I think the delay in seating Franken actually aided in the credibility of the recount process here. He wasn’t jammed down anyone’s throat. I know the Dems were frustrated by the long delay, but the process allowed for fairness.

That’s my take anyway.

GlenJo October 31st, 2010 at 3:06 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 12

I agree with you that recounts seem to be more likely than not this year. Has the DC Dems organizations taken any steps to have a legal team ready to go to help out when challenges start occurring? Or does the DNC just stay out of this stuff?

To be honest, this seems like something Howard Dean would have been up to doing, but Tim Kaine seems to be pretty clueless (I could be making an unfair characterization, but judging by how well the midterms are supposed to go for the Dems, I think it’s fair to say Tim’s performance as DNC chair has been poor.)

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:10 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 80

Right …
Elias and Coleman legal spokesman Ben Ginsberg held daily and dueling news conferences during the election trial. Twice a day, every day.

As a former sports writer it was like the coaches of teams holding news conferences after games.

Elias was Franken’s lead lawyer, but Ginsberg was brought in only as a media voice. I know that others on the Coleman team were uncomfortable with that, particularly because Ginsberg was often critical of the three=judge panel, and publicly ripping judges in Minnesota is a no-no.

Ginsberg applied to be admitted to practice in Minnesota, but the judges just sat on that request.
I write about this specifically.

But you should know that the judges were very much aware of Ginsberg’s critical comments and it did affect their view of him, and maybe of the entire legal team. Maybe.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:13 pm
In response to RevBev @ 75

A good story, yes, but I wasn’t so sure I should write the book until well into the recount process, like about February.

Someone suggested the idea in December, but I thought, “I’m no expert, I’ve written a book before and it takes forever, it doesn’t make much money, it’s hard work, and, anyway, this thing will be over soon.”

Wrong on the latter, but someone had to write it and it was me.

Or at least write this version of it, as a tale, a saga. There’s plenty of room left over if someone wants to write a more partisan book or a more legalistic book.

But your characterization of this being a “good story” is how I saw it, too.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:16 pm
In response to GlenJo @ 82

I know the Dems and GOP are planning for recounts.
Senate races in Nevada, Colorado, Illinois and Alaska could tumble into recounts.
As many as 30 US House races could be in recount mode.
Then there are governors races.

The DNC is involved, but mostly the Dem Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Dem Congressiona Campaign Committee and their GOP counterparts. EVERYONE is gearing up.

And it will be interesting to see how resources are allotted if there are many recounts.

I’m guessing the Harry Reid recount — if it occurs — will be Ground Zero.

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 3:18 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 83

I’d wondered about that. Yes, having Ginsberg the Florida recount veteran in to speak about the case enabled the Coleman team to say whatever they wanted the press to hear, but having what came out of his mouth be at such variance with what those of us watching The UpTake knew to be actually happening must not have pleased the judges overmuch.

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 3:18 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 85

I’m worried the lesson the GOP learned from AL was don’t let Dems vote in the first place I expect Tea Bagger mobs and GOP poll watcher’s to be trying to stop us from voting.

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 3:20 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 85

They’re gearing up big-time in Alaska. Don’t be surprised if people you know will soon be flying into Juneau in the dead of winter. :-)

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:21 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 86

The judges heard from their clerks what was being said.
The judges read what was being said.

As to your point about Ginsberg not being in the court room, I have a section in the book about his application to be admitted to the Minnesota bar.

It came about the same time that he was accusing the judges of creating a “legal quagmire.”

The next day — one of the only days — he went into chambers with the other Coleman lawyers — Judge Elizabeth Hayden, one of the three trial judges, greeted him and others with, “Welcome to the quagmire.”

That was an indication of how much the judges were learning about Ginsberg’s comments.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:24 pm

There is a lot of activity on the web and with public news conferences by right-wing extremists to harass voters. There is.

Something happened in Minnesota just the other day and Rep. Keith Ellison challenged the group claiming to stand for “voter integrity.”

There’s also a lot of Op-eds being written citing the Franken-Coleman recount as an example of a stolen election. I don’t believe that to be the case, of course.

But voter suppression is a serious matter. I’m not sure if the 2008 recount triggered that spirit, but it might have. There are some folks who believe the Dems “stole” the 2008 election. Some, not many.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:26 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 88

Alaska will be interesting: three-way race, one candidate a total write-in.

Ironically, both the Dems and GOP sought to have some rules allowing flexibility for the write-in candidate to be restricted by the courts.
The Alaska court turned down the two parties.

Lesson: when in doubt, shut things down. That’s a lesson from Florida, and what the Coleman forces tried to do to absentee ballots in Minnesota.

In Alaska, both parties took that stance to block Lisa Murkowski.

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 3:27 pm

There’s also a lot of Op-eds being written citing the Franken-Coleman recount as an example of a stolen election.

That worries me can you come back here after the election to give your take on the expected recounts? I expect the GOP will scream no more Al no more Acorn when they lose.
I also expect more video of GOPers stomping on women and maybe another Brooks Brothers riot or two to stop recounts.

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 3:29 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 91

In Alaska, both parties took that stance to block Lisa Murkowski.

Why without Lisa the Dems would be nowhere?

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Well, let’s see how many recounts unfold.

Every state has different rules and a different judicial and political culture.

But the races themselves will determine the vigor of the contests: again, the Reid-Angle recount, if there is one, will be like Franken-Coleman because Reid is such a target, a symbol of Dems in the Senate.

An Illinois Senate recount would be big: Pres Obama’s former seat.

Would love to come back and comment, if Bev and PW would have me!

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 3:30 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 89

What’s interesting is how the Coleman spokespeople attacked, not just the judges, but pretty much everyone involved in Minnesota’s elections systems, right down to the county clerks. The judges likely weren’t the only people who were ticked off.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Haven’t read the legal papers, but the Dems wanted the write-in provisions tightened, too.
Will try to find a link while we’re still on to help explain it.

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 3:31 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 94

That would be wonderful! Hope we didn’t wear out your fingers with all our questions and give-and-take.

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 3:32 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 96

Yes, I remember that, too. Was going to search for a link but will let you do that.

GlenJo October 31st, 2010 at 3:32 pm
In response to GlenJo @ 82

Thanks for the answer!

Be sure to check out the comments to your Wapo story.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:33 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 95

I’m guessing some average citizens were annoyed, too.

One of the most dramatic moments in the trial came when Franken lawyer David Lillehaug told the judges that the Coleman legal team was questioning “the legitimacy” of the entire election.

After some rulings from the judges, that was Ben Ginsberg’s main talking point. So, maybe for some Coleman supporters and GOP supporters, that notion has stuck.

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 3:33 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 95

I never understood attacking the judge by the Dems or GOP winning public opinion matters not if you lose the judge deciding your case.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:33 pm
In response to GlenJo @ 99

Other than FDL comments, I try to stay away from newspaper commenters.
What do they say? (In general)

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:34 pm

To his credit, Franken lawyer Marc Elias never criticized the judges during the trial.
He doesn’t do that sort of stuff.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:36 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 98

Here’s a story about Dems and GOP combining to halt some write-in flexibility

http://articles.ktuu.com/2010-10-25/write-in-candidates_24221691

PeasantParty October 31st, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Jay, is there any talk of changing from the touch screen black boxes anytime in the near future?

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 3:36 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 100

One of the most dramatic moments in the trial came when Franken lawyer David Lillehaug told the judges that the Coleman legal team was questioning “the legitimacy” of the entire election.

McCain screaming Acorn? O’keefe disgracing himself with the attempted date rape of a CNN reporter recently won’t help the GOP if they scream Acorn now. The GOP should from a PR standpoint want that story quiet.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:36 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 97

I am not typing with my nose . . .

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 3:36 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 103

Very smart man:)

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:37 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 97

I meant I am NOW typing with my nose … bad joke because of all the typing!

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:39 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 105

We don’t have touch screens here in Minnesota.
That does allow for a cleaner recount because a hand recount allows for a clear visual inspection for the ballots and voter intent.

I’m not an expert on touch screens, but they seem to be less transparent in a recount environment.

PeasantParty October 31st, 2010 at 3:40 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 110

Lucky You! We have no paper trails. Recounts would be impossible in my state.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:42 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 111

What state are you in?

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 3:43 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 104

Thanks!

PeasantParty October 31st, 2010 at 3:43 pm

One of the darkest, ugliest Red of them all. South Carolina.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:45 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 113

Feels like things are winding down. Any more questions out there?

PeasantParty October 31st, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Senator John Spratt is up for the fight of his life this time. The GOP has spent millions on ads against him in favor of a developer.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:45 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 114

Well, good luck in South Carolina!

PeasantParty October 31st, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Thanks. But most of all, thank you for being here to share with us.

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 3:47 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 110

Recounts in touch-screen states (like Ohio) are a joke, as there’s no paper trail to compare against the stored electronic results:

The county uses touchscreen machines from Diebold. The machines print a paper ballot that is reviewed by the voter. State law calls for those paper ballots to be used for the recount. The problem is, some of those ballots did not print properly because of paper jams and malfunctions, and are not readable. The Ohio Secretary of State has declared that those votes can be counted by simply reprinting the paper ballot from the memory card. Of course that defeats the purpose of a voter-verified audit trail, but she says it is acceptable.
The next day the news came out that the number of unreadable ballots was actually 20% of all ballots.

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Thanks for being here, Jay!

RevBev October 31st, 2010 at 3:49 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 115

Thank you for coming…I like the thought this recount can be instructive for what may be ahead.

GlenJo October 31st, 2010 at 3:49 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 102

Let’s just say that re-fighting Bush/Gore in 2000 and Franken/Coleman on 2008 still seems to be a blood sport, and everybody’s got their own “facts”.

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 3:50 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 115

Jay, if you want to come back and talk further about election issues in general as well as in 2008 Minnesota, let us know and we’ll see what we can do.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:50 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 119

Voter intent is so much clearer on paper ballots.
If the voting machines screw up and if the election is close and a recount occurs, those paper ballots are necessary to judge voter intent.
So, again, I’m not a voting machine expert, but those touchscreens seem less reliable and democratic, with a small ‘d’.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:53 pm
In response to GlenJo @ 122

Well, the facts are the facts here in Minnesota.

12 judges were involved in overseeing the 2008 recount in three different forums: MN Supreme Court, trial court, Canvassing Board.

6 of the 12 were appointed by Republican governors
2 were appointed by Independent Jesse Ventura.
1 was elected without appointment.
3 were appointed by Dems.

so it wasn’t a Dem conspiracy.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:54 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 123

u betcha

PeasantParty October 31st, 2010 at 3:54 pm

I would think that the bubble sheets like used in School exams would be better than no paper trails.

The ammendments that we vote on are worded so badly that most people have no idea what they are voting for.

BevW October 31st, 2010 at 3:56 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon,

Jay, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and the elections.

Phoenix Woman, Thank you again for Hosting this great salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:
Jay’s website
PWs website

Jay’s book

Thanks everyone,
Have a great week!

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:57 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 127

For those who are becoming real election law geeks, let me suggest this blog out of Loyola (Calif.) … all sorts of election stuff

http://electionlawblog.org/

Dearie October 31st, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Wonderful book salon and terrific work by Jay…..so responsive and helpful. Thanks.

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:58 pm
In response to BevW @ 128

thanks for having me.

go to http://www.thisisnotflorida.com, too
email me at jay.weiner@comcast.net if you want to reach me.

book available on Amazon and all bookstores in Midwest, anyway.

THANKS FDL, Bev and PW. thanks so much/ Jay

Jay Weiner October 31st, 2010 at 3:58 pm
In response to Dearie @ 130

you’re welcome/ j

Phoenix Woman October 31st, 2010 at 3:59 pm
In response to Jay Weiner @ 131

Thanks for coming and don’t be a stranger!

ThingsComeUndone October 31st, 2010 at 4:08 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 123

Seconded By jay plus tell me when your coming so I can be there :)

GlenJo October 31st, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Jay,

Thank you! Sorry for the late response – got wrapped up making a DVD of Night of the Living Dead for Halloween.

WineRev November 1st, 2010 at 5:09 am
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 5

Hi Phoenix Woman!
You were kind enough to comment many times during the WineRev diaries over at DailyKos on the Senate Recount so I thought I would return the favor here.

You know, after 136 diaries at Daily Kos and 250 people who pre-ordered books of those diaries and the supreme effort of the folks at Melange Press to get the book Recounting Minnesota published in a 6 week time frame so it was available at Net Roots Nation in Pittsburgh in AUGUST of 2009,

Phoenix Woman,

I REALLY get annoyed with a diary like this one that opens with the words
Jay Weiner’s book is to my knowledge the first on a race and recount that captured the nation’s (or at least the press’) attention throughout much of 2009. Unfortunately, I suspect that it is likely to be the only one, as the media has long since moved on to other things. This is a pity as the race was too big a happening to be covered fully by just one book, even one written by MinnPost’s Jay Weiner.

And REALLY get annoyed that a discussion like this one happened because you decided to chat with Jay Weiner about his book and call it the first and only book to your knowledge…. except you had knowledge…..sigh.

Just wanted to let you know.

Shalom

Phoenix Woman November 1st, 2010 at 6:12 am
In response to WineRev @ 136

Hi, WineRev! Haven’t seen you in ages, and this is the first I recall seeing you here.

To tell the truth, I wasn’t around Daily Kos as much as I used to be after a certain point in 2009 (and I used to visit there several times a day) as I got sick of getting troll-rated by the members of the Booster Club. (That’s one reason why I haven’t seen you in ages.)

So have you compared your book to Weiner’s? How do they stack up?

Phoenix Woman November 1st, 2010 at 8:53 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 137

I was hoping WineRev might reply, but apparently he just registered so he could leave the one comment. Oh, well.

Sorry but the comments are closed on this post