Franken confident as Supreme Court hearing takes place today

Al Franken
U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken in his Minneapolis home.
MPR Photo / Mark Zdechlik

Franken, who spoke with MPR over the weekend, believes the justices will uphold the ruling of the three-judge panel that heard Republican Norm Coleman's initial lawsuit and determined Franken had more votes.

Coleman declined a request for an interview.

"I'm actually very glad that we're finally here," Franken said. "According to the court itself, once they decide and the loser has exhausted all their options in state court, the winner is to be certified. And then I will finally get the chance to have the opportunity to do what I wanted to do for the last three years in the first place -- which is to go to the Senate and work for the people of Minnesota."

Franken says he's been regularly traveling to Washington to meet with senators and their staffers, and he says they are eager to have him join them.

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"I think it's going to be an odd way to enter the Senate. Being sworn in and voting on something, perhaps a few minutes later, is an odd way to do this. Obviously there are certain disadvantages of going through the process this way."

"I'm very cognizant that 58 percent of voters didn't vote for me in this election. I'm going to have to earn the trust of those who didn't."

Among the disadvantages, Franken says, is no transition time between winning the election and getting to work.

Franken says in addition to preparing to become a senator, he has been spending a lot of time raising money to pay his legal fees.

With Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Spector's decision to leave the Republican Party, Franken's election would give the Democratic caucus a 60-vote filibuster-proof majority. Franken says that may have helped his fundraising efforts, but he downplayed the impact of Minnesota's Senate race on national politics.

"Maybe there was a jump in excitement about that, but you know, I don't look at 60 as the important number. I look at '2' -- all states are supposed to have two senators, and that's what I see my job is to work for the people of Minnesota."

Franken says he wishes he could have been involved in crafting the economic stimulus package earlier this year, and that if he been in on the debate, Democrats would have been able to allocate more money to the states.

He says he's hopeful he will make it to the Senate in time to weigh in on health care and education reform.

He says he thinks President Obama is doing a good job and is restoring Americans' confidence. Franken says he supports the administration's focus in Afghanistan in the war on terror.

Many Minnesotans are fed up with the seemingly unending Senate battle. Franken says if he gets the seat, he will work to heal partisan divides.

"I'm very cognizant that 58 percent of the people, of voters, didn't vote for me in this election, and that I'm going to have to earn the trust of those who didn't. We are facing an incredibly difficult time. Minnesotans are facing immense challenges, and again I'm going to put my head down and start working."

If, as Franken expects, the Minnesota Supreme Court upholds the three-judge panel's decision, Franken says he thinks he will be awarded the election certificate he needs to be seated in the Senate. But Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty has not said at what point he would sign the certificate.

Franken says he has not worked out the details of exactly when he would go Washington to join the Senate if he prevails, but he says he expects it will be a very quick transition.

"I anticipate getting to work as quickly as I can. I'm not going to like, you know, take vacation after we win."