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3442After 8 Months, Franken Wins Senate Seat in Minnesota

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  • Greg Cannon
    Jun 30, 2009
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      After 8 Months, Franken Wins Senate Seat in Minnesota
      Published: June 30, 2009

      Nearly eight months after Election Day, Al Franken, a former comedian and an author, appeared certain on Tuesday to become the next United States senator from Minnesota, giving the Democratic Party at least symbolic control over Senate filibusters.

      Outside his St. Paul home, the incumbent, Norm Coleman, a Republican who had held the seat for one term, conceded the election to Mr. Franken, bringing an end to a lengthy battle that had resulted in thousands of pages of legal documents, cost tens of thousands of dollars, and had left many ordinary Minnesotans weary.

      Mr. Coleman’s announcement followed a unanimous state Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday in Mr. Franken’s favor. There, the case had centered, in part, around whether some absentee ballots had been wrongly excluded and standards had been inconsistent, as Mr. Coleman contended.

      But in their 5-0 ruling, the court found that Mr. Coleman had failed to prove that “the trial court’s findings of fact are clearly erroneous or that the court committed an error of law or abused its discretion."

      “Ours is a government of laws, not men and women,” Mr. Coleman said, in a statement he read before reporters. “The Supreme Court of Minnesota has spoken and I respect its decision and will abide by the result. It’s time for Minnesota to come together under the leaders it has chosen and move forward. I join all Minnesotans in congratulating our newest United States Senator – Al Franken.”

      All along, this election – with ballots cast by 2.9 million Minnesotans – had been stunningly close. One early count, not long after Election Day, showed Mr. Coleman ahead by just 206 votes. During a statewide hand recount process, the numbers fluctuated up and down, and ultimately, a three judge panel announced that Mr. Franken had won by 312 votes.

      Senate Democrats said they would like to seat Mr. Franken as quickly as next week, giving the party a crucial added vote as it moves to difficult debates over climate change and health care among other topics.

      “The Senate looks forward to welcoming Senator-elect Franken as soon as possible,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, said in a statement.

      Republicans seemed increasingly resigned to Mr. Franken joining the Senate and providing the 60th Democratic vote after the Democrat spent months in senatorial limbo. But there was no immediate comment from Senate Republican leaders in the wake of the decision.

      Republicans are also well aware that two veteran Democrats, Senators Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, are ailing and have regularly been absent from the Senate, making it very difficult for Democrats to assemble 60 senators on the floor.

      Mr. Byrd was released from a Washington area hospital Tuesday after a stay of more than a month for a staph infection, but aides were unable to say whether he would be voting regularly when Congress resumes next week; Mr. Kennedy is undergoing treatments for brain cancer.