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Merrimack Valley

November 30, 2008

Minnesota Senate race echoes N.H. election in 1974

Minnesota Senate election may top Durkin, Wyman race as closest matchup

New Hampshire has owned the record for the longest and closest U.S. Senate election in history since 1974 when John Durkin and Louis Wyman locked horns in the granddaddy of all political tugs-of-war.

But now the Granite State's record could topple like the Old Man of the Mountain. On Nov. 19, Minnesota started a statewide recount to decide the 2008 U.S. Senate race between stand-up comedian Al Franken and his Republican opponent, incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman.

According to the latest numbers, Coleman officially holds the lead by 292 votes, but the recount is not over. About 4,740 ballots are being challenged. The winner could be decided before the end of the year — or the candidates could wind up in court, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said.

So far, the recount is going well, but a court challenge and the possibility of drawing the Senate into the fracas is becoming more likely after a panel denied Franken's request to factor absentee ballots rejected by poll workers into the recount.

The Minnesota race has gained national attention because a Democratic victory could hand President-elect Obama a filibuster-proof Senate.

N.H. recount set historic precedent

Locally, it has rekindled memories of the 1974 New Hampshire Senate contest and the precedents it set for the state and the nation, although people who played a part in the saga do not always agree about the legacy.

"Minnesota's trying to steal one on us," said Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, D-Manchester. "But if you're trying to draw an analogy, New Hampshire's first. We set the stage."

He conceded the Minnesota matchup is also a classic with "two characters" in Coleman and Franken. But D'Allesandro remembered the 1974 New Hampshire Senate race and recount as a "completely unique experience."

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