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Pioneer Editorial: It's time to end Senate distraction

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opinion Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

It's time to come home, Norm.

As former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman ponders an appeal of the three-judge panel's decision, which he undoubtedly will submit this week, we would hope he'd finally realize that to do so would only serve as obstructionist to an inevitable outcome.

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It's time to come home, Norm.

This newspaper has endorsed Republican Coleman for every statewide race he's run - governor in 1998, U.S. senator in 2002, and most recently in his re-election bid this past fall. We believed Sen. Coleman was a moderate voice in a divisive Senate, and represented Minnesota well when it came to issues Minnesotans cared about. But he barely won the November election, a scant 215 votes out of 2.9 million ballots. Because of the slim margin, a recount was automatic, even though Sen. Coleman urged his Democratic opponent, Al Franken, to respect the voters and call off the recount.

The recount was done precisely according to state law, before a five-person State Canvassing Board that included four state judges and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie. At that time, it was Franken who pulled head, with a 225-vote lead over Sen. Coleman, which he then appealed.

After a seven-week trial, the Minnesota Supreme Court-appointed three-judge panel considered arguments from both Sen. Coleman and Mr. Franken. It threw out most of Sen. Coleman's arguments, opened only a fraction of disputed absentee ballots, and concluded by awarding the election to Mr. Franken, increasing his lead by 312 votes.

It's time to come home, Norm.

Sen. Coleman's appeals were necessary and a legal part of the process. But at some point, incessant appeals serve no more than to obstruct the process than to guarantee justice. It's not unlike the Death Row inmate who exhausts all his appeals, taking years, and reaching the U.S. Supreme Court. And how many cases does the high court acquit?

At this point, we seriously doubt the credibility of either Sen. Coleman or Mr. Franken to have a productive Senate tenure for the remaining 5½ years -- which could become less should Sen. Coleman continue to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could decide not to hear the case until it convenes in October after a summer break.

While Sen. Coleman believes thousands of absentee ballots were wrongly rejected, two state panels disagree, as well as the 87 county auditors who ran the election.

The public perception at this point appears not to be one of letting Sen. Coleman fully seek redress of his legal grievances, but rather one of obstructing the Democrat-controlled Senate to prevent it from reaching that magic number of 60 votes. Adding Mr. Franken would mean 59 Democrat votes in the Senate. To continue to obstruct doesn't bode well for Minnesota, nor for Sen. Coleman's career, should he continue in politics.

It's time to come home, Norm.

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