Special to the World
ST. PAUL, MN—Motorists driving on I-94 past Snelling Ave. are confronted by a giant billboard with a smiling picture of Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the message, “What will Pawlenty choose: People of Minnesota? Or his national ambitions?”
Paid for by a coalition that includes the Minnesota AFL-CIO, the billboard is a pointed reminder to the Republican governor that the people expect him to do his duty: certify Democrat Al Franken as the duly elected U.S. Senator from Minnesota.
The billboard was unveiled at a May 12 news conference. Directly under the looming billboard, about 30 union members and their allies were on hand to voice their indignation that more than six months after the Nov. 4 election, the incumbent Republican Senator, Norm Coleman, is still refusing to concede defeat. With the connivance of the national Republican Party, Coleman is holding out despite a meticulous recount, a Board of Elections ruling, and a three-judge panel’s unanimous decision that Franken won by 312 votes.
Donald McFarland, spokesperson for the Minnesota chapter of Americans United for Change told the World, “A majority of Minnesotans want this to be over, that is has been a fair count of the vote and Franken won. Time was taken for the recount. It was not rushed. It was a fair and transparent process. A majority of the people of this state believe that Franken received more votes. It is the people of Minnesota who are being hurt by not having their second senator seated.”
Also in the coalition is the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, AFSCME Council 5, Working America, the Service Employees International Union and many others.
McFarland said Pawlenty’s presidential ambitions are well-known. “What tells me he has ambitions for higher office is that he has been on the national weekend talk shows month after month,” he said. But it would undercut Pawlenty’s presidential ambitions if he is seen by voters as a practitioner of Bush-Cheney style political dirty tricks in denying Franken the seat he won fair and square.
Coleman’s chief lawyer is Ben Ginsberg, one of the legal hired guns who helped Bush steal the 2000 election in Florida.
If Franken is seated, it will give the Democrats 60 senate seats, the supermajority they need to break Republican filibusters, the GOP’s strategy for blocking health care reform with a “Medicare for all” public option as well as the Employee Free Choice Act that makes it easier for workers to win union protection. The Republican leadership is pushing Coleman to challenge the election all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, to block this agenda.
The Minnesota coalition also launched an online petition directed at Pawlenty and Minnesota Sec. of State, Mark Ritchie (www.seatoursenator.com).
“Forty-nine states have had two votes in the Senate for months,” reads the introduction to the petition. “How much longer will Minnesota have to wait for its second Senate vote?” It cites a poll showing that 61 percent of Minnesotans think the recount has been “fair, impartial, and accurate…Yet we still are waiting to have a second senator to represent the interests of our citizens.”
The petition calls on Pawlenty to certify the winner adding, “As a resident of Minnesota, I am concerned that we be fully represented in the U.S. House and Senate particularly as we take on such critical priorities as rebuilding our economy, making health care more affordable, bringing green jobs to the state and reforming the banking system to protect working families.”