One candidate in, one out of trial spotlight
ST. PAUL - Norm Coleman has a job but sat in a courtroom this week watching to see if he will land a different job. Al Franken is away from that courtroom, preparing for a job he does not have. Like their politics, the Senate candidates have take...
ST. PAUL - Norm Coleman has a job but sat in a courtroom this week watching to see if he will land a different job.
Al Franken is away from that courtroom, preparing for a job he does not have.
Like their politics, the Senate candidates have taken different approaches this week to the trial that could determine Minnesota's next senator.
Coleman filed a lawsuit challenging the election results that showed Franken won the election by 225 votes.
Coleman's campaign is trying to show the court that ballots were treated differently around the state and that some validly cast absentee ballots were wrongly rejected and should be counted.
Earlier, attorney Joe Friedberg asked Jim Gelbmann -- the deputy secretary of state who was involved in the Senate recount and was the first major witness in the Senate election trial -- about specific absentee ballots, including one that was rejected because the witness signed her first name differently than the name state officials had on file.
Coleman has watched the trial's first four days in person. Each day the Republican entered the courtroom, quietly greeted observers and took a seat next to his team of attorneys.
Democrat Franken has not attended the trial.
Attorney Marc Elias said while Franken will not sit in on the proceedings, his absence -- and Coleman's presence -- means little.
"Obviously, former Sen. Coleman -- it's his lawsuit," Elias said. "He's certainly welcome to be here and he has been. I don't know that there's anything to read into."
Coleman took a job last week as a consultant to the Republican Jewish Coalition, but told reporters he needed to be in the courtroom.
"It's important for me to be right here, right now and that's what I'm doing," Coleman said. "And I'm thrilled to be here."
The three judges presiding over the trial heard testimony Thursday from two election officials and a pair of voters whose absentee ballots were not included in the election.
Campaign attorneys tried to show through testimony that the other side shifted its position on key ballot issues during the recount.
Rejected absentee ballots are at the center of Coleman's lawsuit. Coleman wants up to 11,000 absentee ballots reviewed by the judges because it says many were wrongly discarded.
Coleman's legal team dropped one of its other arguments Thursday.
Attorneys said the campaign no longer will challenge the inclusion of 171 ballots from a St. Paul suburb in the recount tally.
Maplewood officials found ballots during the recount that were not counted election night.
Earlier this week, Coleman said sitting in the courtroom reminds him of his days as a prosecutor in the state attorney general's office.
Coleman's observations are helpful for his legal team, said attorney Ben Ginsberg.
The campaign is not trying to influence the judges' decisions by having Coleman attend, he added.
Out of public view, Franken has spent recent days talking to Minnesota lawmakers about congressional issues and to advisers about foreign and domestic issues, his campaign said.
"He's getting ready to represent Minnesota on Day 1 the second that he is able to be seated," spokeswoman Jess McIntosh said.
That preparation is on hold. McIntosh said Franken left Minnesota Thursday to vacation with his wife for a few days in Florida.
As the election lawsuit plays out, Franken has sued to get a signed election certificate.
That could allow him to be seated in the Senate even before the three-judge panel decides whether to uphold the election results.