Coin Toss Decides Election, 1998

November 18, 1998

A flip of a 1902 silver dollar by Minnesota Secretary of State Joan Growe decided a tie vote in the Gilbert mayoral race Wednesday morning at Gilbert City Hall. Incumbent Mayor Ed Schneider (middle) called heads. When the coin hit the floor, it came up tails. Karl Oberstar Jr. (right), Gilbert mayor from 1986 to 1994, becomes mayor again in January. "I was a little bit nervous, especially in the last few minutes,’" Oberstar said after the toss. "I said a little prayer before she tossed the coin, then I didn’t even look when she tossed it. It’s unbelievable — it’s like the lottery to me." The event was broadcast on NBC’s "Today Show." (Lee Bloomquist / News Tribune)

Here is the story that ran as a preview to the coin toss:



Karl Oberstar Jr. planned to spend Tuesday night meditating and praying. Gilbert Mayor Ed Schneider planned to be at City Hall working on the 1999 city budget.

The political fortunes of Gilbert’s two mayoral candidates were to be decided at 7 a.m. today — and broadcast live nationwide — at Gilbert City Hall, when a coin flip determines whether Schneider or Oberstar becomes mayor of this Iron Range city for the next two years.

Schneider, mayor since 1994, and Oberstar, mayor from 1986 to 1994, each received 534 votes in a recount last week of the Nov. 3 general election ballots. Originally, Oberstar had been declared the winner 532-529.

"I won the primary, won the general election and lost the recount," said Oberstar. "Right now, it’s out of my control. I’m leaving it up to the Lord."

"It’s been very time-consuming having to go through the primary, the campaigning, the general and then the recount," said Schneider. "But I’m resigned to the fact that I conducted a clean campaign. Whatever happens, I don’t consider myself a loser — I consider myself a winner."

When the recount ended in a tie, some citizens suggested that Gov.-elect Jesse Ventura be invited to flip the coin to select the winner. But Ventura was in California Tuesday to appear on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," on NBC and "The Late Show," on CBS.

Instead, Secretary of State Joan Growe is expected to flip a 1902 silver dollar to determine the winner. As the incumbent, Schneider says he should be allowed to call the flip.

Schneider wouldn’t reveal whether he would call heads or tails.

City officials had planned to determine a winner Tuesday night. But that all changed when NBC’s "Today" show asked if it could broadcast the coin flip. So it was rescheduled to accommodate NBC.

Whoever loses the toss likely won’t disappear from politics. Oberstar, 47, said he would be disappointed, but would remain active in local government.

"What it really proves is that every vote counts," said Oberstar, a millwright at LTV Steel Mining Co. in Hoyt Lakes. "But if I lose, I’m not going to crawl under a rock and never be seen again.

"Just because someone loses, I don’t think that means you shouldn’t try again. If I lose, maybe I’ll apply for the IRRRB commissioner’s job. It would be fun working in the Ventura administration."

Schneider, 69, who retired several years ago as an LTV Steel Mining Co. concentrator attendant, says if he loses, he would still like to serve on city committees.

"It sort of gets into your bloodstream and wears on you like a callous," Schneider said of politics.