The possible gubernatorial recount in Minnesota, where Democratic former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton leads Republican state Rep. Tom Emmer by just over 9,000 votes, has another possible ramification. It is now possible that if the process were to drag on into January, the current GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a potential Republican presidential candidate, could stay on as governor for an extra while.
As you might recall, the legal processes in Minnesota forbid the certifying of an election result until the disputes have truly been resolved in the state courts. In the recount of the 2008 Senate election, this meant that the seating of Democratic Sen. Al Franken was delayed until all the way into July 2009. But while a Senate seat can go vacant and American governance continues, what would happen to the executive branch of the state in case of an election dispute?
As the Star Tribune reports, the relevant language in the state constitution declares: “The term of office for the governor and lieutenant governor is four years and until a successor is chosen and qualified.”
This would would appear to mean that Pawlenty would remain in office as the current governor, if a recount and any potential legal issues were to continue — and Pawlenty has now issued a statement indicating that he would do exactly that.
Pawlenty’s office issued this statement to the state press, and they also gave us a copy:
“The hard work and participation of so many Minnesotans leading up to and throughout yesterday’s election affirms Minnesota’s civic mindedness. While questions remain about the outcome of several contests, there is a process in place to provide the people of Minnesota with a final result as quickly as fairness and the law allows.
My administration is fully committed and prepared to accomplish the swift and orderly transition to the next governor as soon as a final determination is made. As required by Article V of the Minnesota Constitution, I will continue to serve as Governor until a new governor takes the oath.”
Now here’s a fun wrinkle: In a big upset, Republicans won both houses of the Minnesota legislature yesterday, taking over from what were previous big Dem majorities. The Minnesota media have noticed that a Dayton win would create a mirror image of the old status quo — GOP governor with Dem legislature becomes Dem governor with GOP legislature. But it appears that there is a possibility of some window of time when Minnesota could have unified Republican rule.
Of course, it’s also possible that this process won’t drag out nearly as long as the Senate recount did. First of all, Dayton’s lead is now roughly dozens of times more than anything Norm Coleman or Al Franken ever enjoyed, and there usually isn’t that much give in the numbers.
Furthermore — and this could be a crucial point — there is now a fresh body of state legal precedents for any disputes that pop up along the way.
But who knows?