Emmer comfortable with election and his life
ST. PAUL -- Tom Emmer does not plan to exercise his option to cancel a statewide governor's race recount, which will continue the race until at least Dec. 14.
"If they are on the losing side, they want to know it was fair," the Republican candidate said Wednesday about his supporters.
Saying he wants to make sure all votes are counted, and only those that should be counted, the 49-year-old lawyer seems at peace regardless of how a recount goes.
Emmer made his comments in a wide-ranging interview with Forum Communications Co., his first with a journalist since election day.
The Republican said that he attended a parent-teacher conference Tuesday night for the first time in months and works normal-length days, something that does not occur during a campaign or during the time the Legislature is in session. He is state representative from Delano.
Wednesday's interview came just before the Republican Party announced it asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to order election officials to make sure no more ballots were cast than voters who went to the polls.
"Does this make sense?" Emmer asked. "If there are more ballots than voters, we have a problem."
His recount team also is looking into possible double voting and some military ballot questions, among other issues.
Recount-related topics take 75 percent to 80 percent of his day, Emmer said, although he is not deeply immersed in the issues. He relies on the legal team and those in the Republican Party to advise him, but Emmer said that he is in charge.
"It's my name, it's my family," he said. "This thing does not go forward without me."
When to end the contest "is my call," Emmer emphasized.
He would not be specific about what needs to be done before he concedes to Dayton. He only said that he wants to make sure votes have been counted fairly. Once that happens, if he still trails, he said that he can move on with his life.
Emmer and Dayton both support going through a hand recount of the 2 million ballots that were cast on Nov. 2. But Dayton has said that once the recount is done, which is expected to be Dec. 14, there will be a governor-elect.
"We are very respectful of this process," Dayton's recount director, Ken Martin, said Wednesday.
However, Martin and Dayton do not sound as accepting of a court challenge that Emmer could file if the recount goes against him.
"There are huge issues facing the state of Minnesota and we cannot delay this any longer than Dec. 14," Martin said. "It is virtually impossible for them to overcome this insurmountable recount lead."
Taking the election to court, Martin added "is wrong, it is unMinnesotan."
Emmer leaves open the door to a court challenge, like occurred in the 2008 U.S. Senate race, if he is not satisfied with the fairness of the election after the recount concludes.
Emmer does not emphasize his transition team, the staff preparing the way in case he is elected governor.
He meets regularly with his transition chief, but said it would be presumptuous for him to name commissioners or make other major decisions now.
During the campaign, he said, lots of the groundwork was laid for him to become governor, including preparing a budget outline.
"We will be prepared in the event the recount turns," he said.
Before Wednesday's interview, Emmer had not sat down for one with a journalist since the election, although he held a news conference and answered questions of a radio talk show host who donated to his campaign.
Emmer said he does not think it is appropriate to be in the news constantly, but "it is not a good idea to completely go silent." He is to appear on statewide public television's "Almanac" program on Friday.
In talking to Emmer, it sounds like the best thing to happen since the election was that he has had more time with his seven children (his wife, Jacquie, usually traveled with him during the campaign). He was looking forward to helping with homework.
The weekend after the election, he and his father, Tom Sr., drove to Canada to watch the candidate's oldest son play hockey for the first time in nearly two years. That was relaxing, he said.
He still seems relaxed, even while lawyers and others surrounding him are scurrying around hunting votes.
"I am very comfortable were we're at," Emmer said.
Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.