Coleman declared winner of Senate race

The Minnesota Daily

Adding one more Senate seat to the Republican’s already-secured majority, former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman defeated former Vice President Walter Mondale in one of the closest Senate races in state history.

With nearly 98 percent of the precincts counted, Coleman had garnered slightly less than 50 percent of the vote, while Mondale had 47 percent. About 75,000 votes separated the two candidates.

The Republican victory gives that party at least 51 seats in the Senate, with two races still undecided. Democrats have 46 seats, and Jim Jeffords, an independent from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats, has the remaining seat.

Earlier, just before midnight at DFL headquarters, Mondale had told supporters that “some of the best looking precincts you have ever seen in your life have yet to report.”

Although enthusiasm seemed to wane with news that CNN had called the gubernatorial race in Tim Pawlenty’s favor, there was still optimism that then-unreported precincts might include those in the Twin Cities and Iron Range, areas that traditionally favor Democrats over Republicans.

DFLers were also pleased with the reported high voter turnout. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said minority voters turned out in particularly large numbers in his city, which could be a boost for Democrats.

Late Tuesday night Coleman told supporters a wave of Republican Senate victories was sweeping races nationally.

“The wave is moving from East to West and we’re waiting for it to hit Minnesota,” he said. “Your love, your passion, your energy and your prayers have carried us far.”

The whirlwind campaign has kept political analysts, campaign workers and poll watchers on their toes.

Independence Party candidate Jim Moore and Green Party candidate Ray Tricomo received .5 percent and 2 percent of the vote respectively. Neither candidate garnered the 5 percent necessary to earn major party status.

Both Moore and Tricomo were upset when they were banned from debating Monday with Coleman and Mondale, the only debate of the campaign involving Mondale.

“It’s up to us to carry on this movement – we’re here to stay,” Moore told supporters. “How does it feel to put creativity back into politics, to focus on issues rather than sound bytes and to bring forth positivity rather than nasty-grahams?”

Due to the Oct. 25 death of Sen. Paul Wellstone in a plane crash in northern Minnesota, voters were given supplemental ballots for the U.S. Senate race, with Mondale replacing Wellstone. A large red ‘X’ covered the race on the regular ballot, which still included Wellstone’s name.

Democratic Attorney General Mike Hatch, who was re-elected Tuesday night, estimated that 20,000 absentee votes would be tallied Wellstone – approximately 1 percent of voter turnout

“Will that make the difference in this contest?” Hatch said. “I don’t think so.”

Because workers hand counted the ballots, Hennepin County results were not returned until early this morning.

DFL state chairman Mike Erlandson said he was not sure if the party would file a lawsuit if Mondale loses the race by a small margin.

“Obviously we want to make sure everything is fair,” he said. “Right now we don’t have any kind of strategy.”

In the weeks preceding Election Day, the Minnesota race was considered pivotal in determining control of the Senate, and both parties poured money into the state for their candidates.

Previously, the Senate was divided with 49 members from the Democratic and Republican parties and two Independents after the Monday appointment of Independent Dean Barkely by Gov. Jesse Ventura to succeed Wellstone.

Mondale, thrown into the race after receiving the official DFL nomination last Wednesday, campaigned for less than one week.

Coleman was also forced to change his campaign from breaking down Wellstone’s politics to touting his own record and focusing on the future, directly attacking Mondale’s age.

In the final days of the campaign, both Mondale and Coleman threw all they could into the race.

President George W. Bush made his fifth visit to Minnesota for Coleman on Sunday, and Laura Bush, Dick Cheney and Rudy Giuliani also made last-minute campaign stops in the state.

Senate Majority Leader and fellow Democrat Tom Daschle gave a boost to Mondale, promising him a spot on the Senate leadership team in the event of his victory.

Faithful campaign volunteers and party workers stayed at both party headquarters until the wee hours of the morning.

Hand counted ballots

larry Tawil, who has been the election judge in Minneapolis’ Ward 2 for six years, said he estimates he and other judges will have to count about 1,400 ballots for the U.S. Senate race.

He said that the ballots are first counted and placed in cross-stacked piles of 25, so that the total number of ballots can be compared to the number of ballots that were distributed.

Tawil anticipated there would be a “huge” discrepancy between the two.

He would not say, however, if there was a surplus or deficit of ballots compared to the number of voters. In any case, the difference must be accounted for and then the total number of ballots will be reported to election headquarters, he said.

The next stage of the count requires the election judges to separate the piles of 25 ballots into several more piles; one pile for each candidate, one for blank ballots, and one for defective ballots. Tawil said a defective ballot is one “that for one reason or another is impossible to read clearly or has more than one choice.”

Those piles are then re-sorted into cross-stacked piles of 25, and the number of ballots for each candidate is tabulated, checked and recorded.