The craziest post-election U.S. Senate race in Minnesota history pales (so far, at least) compared with one that unfolded -- and unfolded and unfolded -- in New Hampshire 34 years ago.
Obviously, no direct parallels can be drawn between the showdown between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken and that long-ago election. But as it played out for 10 months after Election Day in 1974, the twists and turns were truly remarkable.
A book, published in the aftermath, was titled "The Closest U.S. Senate Race in History." Here, from news accounts at the time, is what happened:
Republican U.S. Rep. Louis Wyman was heavily favored to win a seat in which the GOP incumbent was retiring, and when votes were counted on Nov. 5, he led Democrat John Durkin by 355 votes. Durkin sought a recount, complaining of a raft of election irregularities. Once the votes were counted again, Durkin was ahead by 10 votes, 110,924 to 110,914.
The governor at the time and the state's executive council made the results official and shipped them off to the secretary of the U.S. Senate. Under the Constitution, the Senate ultimately decides when a member is qualified to be seated.
Wyman, however, was having none of it. He appealed the results to the state's Ballot Law Commission, a three-member body that amounted to the state's court of last resort.
While commission members grappled with the ballots, Durkin unsuccessfully filed lawsuits to block their work.
In the end, the commission gave the victory to Wyman, by either two votes or five (contemporary accounts vary). The governor sent another result certification to the Senate.
Three days before Wyman was to take office, Durkin filed a petition with the Senate itself, asking that his recount victory be counted as valid.
The Senate and a variety of Senate committees repeatedly tried, and, failed, to resolve the election, voting no fewer than 35 times on the matter. Wyman was never seated.
With the Senate deadlocked, Durkin reversed course and asked that a new election be held, opening the way for the Senate to formally declare the seat vacant. Clearly exasperated, Durkin complained that, "at this rate, the term will have expired long before the Senate makes up its mind."
On July 30, the Senate declared the seat vacant, and a special election was held Sept. 16. Durkin won that contest, this time by more than 27,000 votes. He was sworn in two days later.
Staff researcher Roberta Hovde contributed to this report. Bob von Sternberg • 673-7184