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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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Minnesota in suspense after record turnout in Senate race

T By Eric Slater

the most unusual and perhaps most-watched Senate race in the country brought out record numbers of voters Tuesday, which combined with a hastily reworked ballot to keep the outcome a mystery as of early Wednesday morning.

With 40 percent of precincts reporting just before midnight Tuesday, Republican Norm Coleman, a former mayor of this city, led Democrat Walter Mondale, a former senator and vice president under Jimmy Carter, 53 percent to 44 percent. But many of the largest precincts _ several of them Democratic strongholds _ had not finished counting. Independence Party candidate Jim Moore picked up most of the remaining votes.

Mondale was drafted just over a week ago after the incumbent, Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone, died Oct. 25 in a plane crash. Elections officials created new, separate ballots for the Senate race _ ballots that had to be counted by hand.

“It’s going to take a very long time to count these votes,” Coleman told reporters Tuesday evening. “I’m tempted to go and rent `Spider-Man’ and watch the movie. And when it’s done we’ll probably still be counting votes.”

“In Minnesota we might have broken all records for voter participation,” Mondale told supporters, as some precincts reported turnouts upward of 85 percent. Election officials may have to count the ballots again if the final tally is close. The hand-count and other problems, including lines so long that polls were forced to stay open late and reports of some polling stations running out of ballots, raised the possibility that this race _ like the 2000 presidential contest in Florida _ could be headed for the courts.

The winning candidate would take the seat held by Wellstone, the Senate’s lone-wolf liberal, a man who seemed happiest when he represented the 1 in a 99-1 vote. He was locked in a bitter, often negative fight with Coleman, 53, a former Democrat who switched parties in 1996 while he was mayor. Coleman decided to run for the Senate at the urging of President Bush.

Wellstone trailed Coleman for much of the campaign but had closed the gap and the race was a dead heat when he died, according to most polls. Mondale stepped in and, in a few days of relatively leisurely stumping, pulled to within striking distance of Coleman, who had been on the campaign trail for 15 months.

Lines had formed at hundreds of polling stations around the state before the doors opened at 7 a.m., and many voters in the Twin Cities waited 30 minutes or more to cast their ballots. If one freeway overpass had been commandeered by sign-waving Coleman supporters, it was a good bet the next would be under control of Mondale’s people.

The weather turned so nasty it thwarted what would have been Coleman’s final campaign push, an airborne odyssey around Minnesota that would have bucked conventional political wisdom, which says: if you haven’t persuaded them by the time the polls open, you aren’t going to.

With the death of Wellstone fresh in their minds, some in both camps were relieved when Coleman was grounded.

“We don’t want another plane crash,” said a Mondale volunteer.

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