Washington Prowler

Recount Reservations

Eye on South Dakota. Also: SEC and ye shall find.

By 11.6.02

Democratic Senator Tim Johnson found himself winning his South Dakota seat -- at least temporarily -- with a 527-vote margin over Republican John Thune. But all of that could change in the next few days. If, after vote canvassing is completed and formalized on November 11, Johnson's margin of apparent victory remains at the current 0.15%, Thune can request a recount. If Johnson's margin of victory should grow to over 0.25% of the vote, Thune most likely would have to go the court route. Already, the Republican National Committee has sent out a team of observers to ensure Thune's staff is ready for what could shape up into a critical fight.

On Wednesday, Thune was taking a cautious tone. Regardless of this race's outcome, he's considered a strong GOP contributor in the future. "We don't want him to burn too many bridges back home," says an RNC staffer. "There's no doubt he'll be running for political office again."

Critical to any Thune recount will be Todd and Milette Counties, where polling places opened an hour earlier than prescribed by South Dakota law. As well, the Rosebud Indian Reservation is in Todd County, and already there is a federal investigation into how Democratic Party operatives registered voters on several South Dakota reservations and collected absentee ballots. Johnson did surprisingly well in both Todd and Milette.

One thing running against a Thune victory is that congressional races in South Dakota have traditionally been close. Both Johnson and Daschle have won by narrow margins in the past.

Oklahoma's soon to be ex- Gov. Frank Keating campaigned openly for the vice presidential slot on the Bush ticket. He campaigned for the Attorney General slot. He campaigned for the director of the FBI position. All for naught. But give Keating this. He's unbowed in his desire to serve the Bush administration.

Now Keating supporters are floating his name to replace Harvey Pitt as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. "He'd be perfect. He'd be tough, out front and everyone from Wall Street to main street would trust him," says a parser of soundbites for Keating in Oklahoma. "He wants the job."

But is he qualified? The same goes for former New York Mayor and GOP superstar Rudy Giuliani. But forget him: he's not eager to touch a tar baby like the SEC and would rather take on a higher profile gig in Washington if something were to come along.

Insiders say the strongest candidate may already be on the commission: Paul Atkins, who was a staffer for the commission and a counsel to both former SEC chairmen Richard C. Breeden and Arthur Levitt. Atkins was a Bush appointee to the SEC earlier this year, and received a comparatively warm reception from Senate Democrats and Republicans.

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