Tim Pawlenty responded on Wednesday to Tim Kaine's request that he sign Al Franken's election certificate, telling the DNC Chair in a letter that he is legally bound to see the state's recount election through its conclusion.
Trying to strike a balance between the desires of national Republicans -- who want Norm Coleman to drag the process out further -- and his local constituents -- who want a resolution to the recount -- the Minnesota Governor said he understood "the frustrations of my fellow Minnesotans who rightfully deserve to be represented by two senators."
But he proclaimed the law to be fairly strict and clear in terms of what he could do, arguing that he was prohibited from issuing an "election certificate until the election contest process is complete."
"In your letter, you asked that I commit to signing an election certificate 'as soon as the Court issues a ruling.' As a fellow Governor and attorney, I am sure you can appreciate that such a commitment would be premature. For example, the Minnesota Supreme Court might remand the case to the three-judge panel and ask them to consider various issues that were raised in the election contest. Under such a circumstance, Minnesota law would prohibit the issuance of an election certificate.
"I understand the frustrations of my fellow Minnesotans who rightfully deserve to be represented by two senators. It is important that our state have our full complement of Senators representing us in Washington, D.C. as soon as possible. It is also important that the thoughtful and thorough election process outlined in Minnesota law be allowed to proceed as intended."
The one thing that stuck out among the letter's content was Pawlenty's reference to a court ruling denying Franken's effort to have an election certificate certified. The state Supreme Court, Pawlenty noted, held that "'state law does not require, indeed does not permit, issuance of a certificate of election until the election contest in state court is completed'"
Political observers in Minnesota point to this passage as the likely reason Franken will be seated once the state Supreme Court makes its upcoming decision on Coleman's latest appeal. Noting that the certification will come once the contest "in state court" is finalized, the argument follows that Pawlenty will be ordered to sign off on Franken's victory even if Coleman pledges to take the case to the federal level.
This could be, Professor David Schultz of Hamline University argues, Pawlenty's dream scenario. "Then, at least, he has the cover from the national Republicans by being able to say, 'Well, I'm under court order to do this.'"