Schwab bows out, concedes to Sparks

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 8, 2003

The long days for Sen. Grace Schwab ended Tuesday morning when she asked Senate Republican leader Dick Day not to pursue a court appeal over the District 27 election result and conceded to DFL opponent Dan Sparks.

&uot;It was tough today to see everyone walking into the Capitol, so happy and excited to be there. I was walking out,&uot; Schwab said in her Albert Lea home.

Anoka County Judge Joseph Quinn ruled Monday that Sparks defeated Schwab by five votes in the Nov. 5 election. Quinn heard a lawsuit by former Austin City Councilor Tom Purcell, backed by the Republicans, after the original 33-vote difference was revised to 11 by the State Canvassing Board.

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Schwab said she thought about the option of filing a temporary restraining order to prevent the Senate from accepting Sparks as a member before the Supreme Court made a decision on an appeal, after consulting with Fritz Knaak, the attorney handling the election lawsuit, Monday night.

&uot;This district has been patient for long enough. The people deserve to have representation and advice in St. Paul. I thought that we don’t need to be held up in court,&uot; Schwab said of her difficult decision. &uot;At some point, it becomes harmful to the district. The interest of the district needs to come first.&uot;

Quinn favored Schwab by eliminating 17 missing ballots mistakenly burned by Austin election judge from the final tallies; the canvassing board had awarded eight of those votes to Sparks. But Quinn’s reapportionment of 32 contested ballots did not fill the extremely narrow gap between the two candidates.

&uot;I think the judge appropriately addressed the burned ballots,&uot; Schwab said. &uot;Yet, unfortunately, the harshest truth is we’ll never know who won this election.&uot;

Schwab mentioned that she also considered the difficulties of overturning the result under the limited judicial authority over the legislature in the Constitution and the current composition in the Senate, where the DFL is dominant.

&uot;It is very, very gray as to what is (the courts’) authority in the legislative process,&uot; Schwab said. Even with a court order, the Senate would have the ultimate jurisdiction to decide its own membership. Unseating Sparks will require two-thirds approval.

&uot;That’s not going to happen,&uot; Schwab said. &uot;There should be a remedy that the court could possibly call a special election, so it does not have to do with who is in power in St. Paul … The present system does not allow that.&uot;

&uot;There have been a lot of hills and valleys the past two months. I had to address each day with a sense of adventure,&uot; Schwab said. The concession did not bring her much relief, but amplified the feeling of how much she would miss the Senate job, she said.

&uot;It was truly the best job I ever had … I promised I do my best for the district, and I gave a good fight.&uot;

Schwab said she would commit the community in a different ways by participating in civil and church organizations, but did not specify if she would continue her activities in politics. &uot;Where is my next place?&uot; she said. &uot;I don’t know.&uot;