The senator's lawyer questioned the integrity of the recount process, but the governor says he isn't worried.
Just four days before the recount starts in the U.S. Senate race, Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman's lead attorney suggested Saturday that the neutrality of the Secretary of State Mark Ritchie's office has been "breached."
Fritz Knaak said he was stunned and disappointed by what he called "eroding" positions from Ritchie's office in a dispute over Democratic challenger Al Franken's legal attempt to get lists of rejected absentee voters. That request is expected to be heard in Ramsey County District Court as early as Monday.
Ritchie is a DFLer, but not even the state's top Republican, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, agreed with Knaak's assertion that Ritchie's shifts "cast doubt from our side as to the ability of that office to handle this recount fairly."
In an interview hours before Knaak's news conference, Pawlenty told KTLK-FM host and Twin Cities attorney Ron Rosenbaum that he had complete confidence in the integrity of the recount that will be overseen by the state Canvassing Board. Ritchie chairs that five-person panel, which will determine voters' intent on any challenged ballots.
"That five-person Canvassing Board ... will run a fair and appropriate process, and they will render a fair and appropriate result,'' Pawlenty said. "It's in nobody's best interest, whether you're a Republican and Democrat or something else, to be taking shots unless there is some reason to do so. ... Unless there is evidence, let's not be throwing gasoline on the fire until we actually have some proof."
Ritchie said last week that the Franken camp's attempt to secure the list of rejected absentee voters should be strictly a legal matter decided by the courts. But his top aide, Gary Poser, said he thought those lists were public information and Ritchie later said the Canvassing Board would likely address the issue Tuesday.
Ritchie did not immediately respond to cell phone calls and e-mails to react to Knaak's comments.
In the latest salvo between the rival campaigns, Knaak said Ritchie has "shifted his position on addressing the propriety of shoving legally rejected absentee ballots into the ballot box."
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report. Curt Brown • 612-673-4767