The Hennepin County sheriff’s race is finally over.
Sheriff Rich Stanek on Tuesday declined to ask for a manual recount, a move that would have cost him $95,000. He had seven days to request a recount after the county canvassing board certified David Hutchinson the winner.
He also considered proceeding with an election contest, which would have consisted of a lawsuit challenging election results, said his campaign chairman Steve Wise. At issue were the 60,000 votes cast in Minneapolis by people registering the same day as the election, he said.
“At this point, doing a recount would have been redundant,” he said. “The ballots that were cast were the ballots that were cast.”
Stanek has served as sheriff for the past 12 years. Hutchinson is a sergeant with Metro Transit Police Department. His victory, achieved through a grass-roots campaign for change, was arguably the biggest upset in Minnesota’s midterm election.
He won by 2,340 votes, a small margin of victory but not one that requires an automatic recount. There were also 3,102 write-in votes. Hutchinson had hired legal counsel in case Stanek decided on a recount.
“We’re pleased to hear that Sheriff Stanek won’t be pursuing a recount,” said Hutchinson.
Stanek dominated in the precincts outside of Minneapolis, while Hutchinson won nearly all precincts in Minneapolis and a few nearby cities.
Hutchinson will take office Jan. 8. He said he would announce his transition team Wednesday morning.
“I thank him for his service and look forward to working with him on an orderly transition,” said Hutchinson.
Wise explained why the campaign committee explored potential legal action over the 60,000 ballots cast by Hennepin County voters who registered on Election Day. Those voters have to verify their address with an ID or the last four digits of a social security number. When those ballots are sent through the machines, they are verified against a database to make sure another vote hadn’t been cast on Election Day or that person hadn’t already submitted an absentee ballot, said Wise.
Following the election, ballots cast by voters registering on Election Day are supposed to be checked against another database to ensure the voter was eligible to vote, he said.
After that, Stanek’s campaign would have had to do its own verification through the state Department of Public Safety, military records or by other means, said Wise. The cost would have come out of Stanek’s pocket and be completed by the time Hutchinson took office, he said.
“We were looking at a heavy pull,” he said. “The handwriting was on the wall.”
Stanek has previously said he hasn’t determined what he will do next. He could return to the Minneapolis Police Department as a captain. He has also served as a state legislator, the state’s commissioner of public safety and has been active with homeland security issues in Washington, D.C.
Stanek will continue to work with Hutchinson on his transition to sheriff, as well as continue his regular duties. On Tuesday, he presented his office’s budget to the County Board.
Wise said the sheriff has been tight-lipped about his next endeavor, “but we have great ideas for him.” The election results were a hard pill to swallow, he said.
“I think he would like to go Up North to his cabin and do some ice fishing for a few weeks,” said Wise. “But he wants to thank his thousands of supporters.”