WASHINGTON (AP) -- Rep. David Minge and his loyal staff members are hanging in political limbo as they await a recount that will determine whether he can keep the congressional seat he's held for nearly eight years.
The Democrat from southwestern Minnesota fell 155 votes short to Republican challenger Mark Kennedy in his bid for a fifth term in the U.S. House. Final results from the recount aren't expected until mid-December.
Asked to assess his odds in winning a recount, Minge said he wasn't sure.
"I haven't talked to a statistician," he said. "Maybe it's one out of 10, I just don't know. I don't think you'd be any worse than one out of 10. ... Obviously, if you get into a recount, there's just as good a chance that the spread would widen in Kennedy's favor."
Minge said he figures he'll be just fine if the recount confirms he lost. But he concedes his conversations these days sometimes get a bit awkward.
"This situation of leaving Congress is not the end of one's life," Minge said. "Some people sort of greet you and they express their sympathies -- it's like you've died."
It's been tough for Minge's full-time staff members: 17 Minnesotans, mostly from small towns, who pride themselves on camaraderie and loyalty to the boss.
"We just believe in David -- and it's a hard time," said Ross Peterson, Minge's chief of staff.
Peterson is already working with the Minnesota Historical Society to begin the process of archiving the congressman's papers.
"We have to be ready to either stay in our office or close our office," Peterson said. "It's actually an opportunity to have glorified housecleaning. ... We're also big kids. We're hopeful that it works. And if it doesn't, then we'll lick our wounds privately and move on."
When House offices were reassigned this past week, Minge's office was kept out of the lottery because of the uncertainty of his race. Representative-elect Mark Kennedy, a 43-year-old from Watertown, has already been told he'll get Minge's office if the count holds in his favor. Kennedy already has been to Washington to meet with other newly elected members of Congress and look for an apartment.
Minge, a 58-year-old lawyer from rural Montevideo, was one of only two Democratic incumbents to lose his House seat.
As the 106th Congress delayed its adjournment, Minge found himself unable to do as much campaigning as he had hoped, but he said that was no excuse.
"I was stuck in Washington, but virtually every incumbent was stuck in Washington, so I didn't have a special handicap, but it was a handicap," Minge said.
He said Kennedy ran a good campaign with aggressive ads. And it was a good year for Republicans in Minge's district: Grams and Bush carried it by comfortable margins.
Minge has already spoken to Sen.-elect Mark Dayton and Representative-elect Betty McCollum, a Democrat from the 4th Congressional District, about the possibility of them hiring some of his staff members. He said he's told his staffers he'll understand if they need to start job hunting now.
"Often these are younger people that are in the earlier stages of their careers," he said. "They've got student loans they're paying. They've got apartment rent. In some cases, they've got credit card payments, and all of these things leave them on a very tight budget."
Whatever happens, Minge said, life will go on.
After his dog died, Minge and his wife decided not to get another, because "you're moving around every week and somebody's gotta take the dog."
Now, he said, they might get a new dog after all.
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