Having had little success in the courts in his efforts to regain his Minnesota Senate seat, Republican Norm Coleman is seeking relief from a higher power. In a recent interview with the New York Times, Coleman said that he had been praying every morning with tefillin.
“I bind myself every morning,” Coleman told The Times. “I bind myself to God every morning because it’s in his hands.”
Legally speaking, the situation is actually in the hands of Minnesota’s Supreme Court, after Coleman decided to challenge the recent rulings of a three-judge panel that left Franken leading by 312 votes. The challenge ensures that the seat will remain vacant for at least the coming month or two. Should the Supreme Court leave Franken in the lead, Coleman will then have decide if he will concede the race or take his case to federal court. In the meantime, he has been consulting part-time for the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Franken, meanwhile, has sought aid from more earthly sources. The article reports that he has consulted former senators Hillary Clinton and Bill Bradley for advice about how to make the transition from celebrity to senator.
The senate seat has been vacant for the last three-and-a-half months, which mark the longest stretch in the last 30 years that the seat has not been held by a Jewish senator. Republican Rudy Boschwitz was elected to the seat in 1978 and held it until he was unseated in 1990 by Paul Wellstone of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (Minnesota’s branch of the Democratic party). Wellstone held the seat until he died in a plane crash late in the 2002 election campaign. Coleman subsequently won that election. Dean Barkley, who is not Jewish, was appointed to serve out the two-month remainder of Wellstone’s term until Coleman assumed the seat. Both Franken and Coleman are Jewish, so the seat will return to Jewish hands for the foreseeable future. (The Forward reported on this odd Minnesota tradition during the 2008 elections.)
In fact, counting the 2002 Wellstone-Coleman race, Jewish candidates have represented both major parties in the last four elections for the seat — Walter Mondale, who replaced Wellstone as the DFL candidate in 2002, is not Jewish— even though Jews constitute only 0.9% of Minnesota’s population, according to the 2007 American Jewish Yearbook.