ST. PAUL - Minnesota's new Republican chairman used his first day on the job to come out swinging against Sen.-elect Al Franken.
Shortly after Democrat Franken's supporters rallied at the Capitol Wednesday, Tony Sutton accused Democrats of fixing Franken's election against Republican Norm Coleman. "They stopped finding votes when they got enough. ... We got robbed."
Sutton hinted the election and an ensuing recount and court battle over the counting of absentee ballots will taint Franken's senatorial career.
"This guy has a bigger asterisk behind his name than Barry Bonds," Sutton said, referring to the record-holding baseball player accused of using banned performance-enhancing drugs.
Sutton said the Senate election's outcome, decided Tuesday by the Minnesota Supreme Court, could fire up enraged Republicans. It could "really motivate people to get out and work hard," he added.
Sutton strongly criticized the court decision in a letter to Republican leaders.
"The court's ruling wrongly disenfranchises thousands of Minnesotans," Sutton wrote. "There were unacceptable disparities in the way Minnesotans' ballots were treated based upon the counties in which they reside. Democrats seized on these disparities and hunted for ballots so they could win the election through the courts. This is completely unacceptable and we will never let it happen again."
Gov. Tim Pawlenty's office reported that Franken's election certificate, signed by the governor and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, was hand-delivered to the U.S. Senate secretary Wednesday morning.
An overnight package service delivered the certificate to Washington and a Minnesota Washington office official gave it to the Senate secretary's office.
Franken is to be sworn in early next week, probably by Vice President Joe Biden, who also is Senate president.
Coleman for governor?
When Coleman conceded defeat Tuesday in the U.S. Senate race, he said he would announce his future plans within days.
That set off serious speculation that he will run for governor next year, especially since GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty is not running for a third term.
Coleman would not go near that topic Tuesday, but some Republicans are courting him for the race.
"It is my understanding that nothing has been ruled in or out," Sutton said.
A key state representative wants to find a better way to resolve election disputes like the U.S. Senate race that stretched on for eight months.
"Minnesotans have had only one U.S. senator for over five months and if Sen. Coleman took this to the U.S. Supreme Court, it could have been much longer; this is just isn't fair to the citizens of Minnesota," Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said. "Providing a provisional certificate of election to the winner of the recount is a common sense remedy that would ensure this never happens again."
Kahn is chairwoman of a House committee that deals with such issues.
Her proposal would allow a temporary election certificate to be granted, and thus a person seated in the Senate, until legal challenges are exhausted. Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court rejected a Franken attempt to give him an election certificate before Coleman's court case played out.
"If this law had been in place, Franken could have received a provisional election certificate and been sworn in to office with all the other U.S. senators," Kahn said.
Franken on immigration
The immigration-reform organization America's Voice is glad Franken won.
The organization said he "supports common sense solutions to our broken immigration system."
Franken's comments that it is not practical to depot illegal immigrants and the need to set up a program that treats them fairly earned the group's praise.
On the Senate Judiciary Committee, one of Franken's assignments, he will have a chance to work on immigration policy.