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Downballot: The recount continues

MINNESOTA: The trial in Minnesota's undecided Senate race begins today. "Three district judges appointed for the job will be hearing the case brought by Republican Norm Coleman to overturn the current 225-vote lead held by Democrat Al Franken," the AP says. "Legal experts believe Coleman faces a bigger challenge. His lawyers have to produce proof of the irregularities and inconsistencies that they allege have made the vote tally fatally flawed. And even if the alleged mistakes are corrected, Franken would probably gain some more votes too. The trial could last weeks." 

The Washington Post: "Coleman's attorneys are arguing that the canvassing board that oversaw the hand recount established no uniform standard for reviewing the nearly 13,000 absentee ballots rejected on Election Day. The board ultimately allowed in 933 such ballots, which tilted the race from a jump ball to a 225-vote edge for Franken. Coleman hopes an additional 3,000 to 5,000 rejected absentee ballots will be allowed into the count, which could flip the race back to him. The lawyers also contend that this trial phase will allow them to fully litigate other issues, including Coleman's contention that more than 100 votes from a Franken-friendly precinct in Minneapolis were counted twice." 

The Minneapolis Star Tribune profiles the three judges who will hear the legal contest. "The judges -- from St. Cloud, Minneapolis and Thief River Falls -- are largely unknown outside their community's legal circles. One made a controversial ruling in a cop-killing case. Another hangs her kindergarten diploma in her office. The third has 'the patience of Job,' according to a colleague, which might not be a bad qualification in the weeks ahead."  

NEW YORK: "Caroline Kennedy's 'personal reasons' for withdrawing from Senate consideration were not connected to damaging claims from Gov. Paterson's camp that she owed back taxes, had a nanny problem or faced a marital scandal, two sources close to her have told The Post." The sources said the personal reasons had nothing to do with taxes, nannies or her husband, but they didn't say what the reason was. They said she would have taken the job had Paterson acted earlier, because the problem hadn't yet arisen. 
 
Gillibrand may be shifting on gun rights. She "pledged Sunday to combat gun violence while protecting hunters' rights, saying 'there's enormous space for common ground' on issues that she differs from fellow New York Democrats," the AP says. "Gillibrand met Sunday with Gov. David Paterson, senior Sen. Charles Schumer and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose vacant Senate seat Gillibrand was appointed to fill Friday." 
 
"Judy Smith, a Washington-based PR guru and former Bush White House deputy press secretary, orchestrated the ill-conceived character attack on Kennedy, sources said Sunday," the New York Daily News' Benjamin reports. 
 
The end for Paterson? "Paterson's handling of the U.S. Senate appointment has even his allies critical of the governor -- and fearful that erosion in public confidence in him could impact efforts next year by Democrats to keep their tenuous control over the state Senate as well as the controller's office," the New York Daily News reports.