Al Franken ready to begin Senate work next week

Al Franken addresses media outside his home
Senator-elect Al Franken addresses the media outside his Minneapolis home after being declared the winner of Minnesota's U.S. Senate race.
MPR Photo/Steve Mullis

Al Franken's path to Washington heads through a victory rally this afternoon at the State Capitol. It took nearly eight months after voters cast ballots for the Minnesota Supreme Court to declare Franken the victor over Norm Coleman.

Democrat Franken already has his committee assignments and expects to begin work as soon as Congress returns from its Fourth of July break next week.

Al and Franni Franken emerged for their downtown Minneapolis condominium late Tuesday afternoon all smiles. Earlier his year, Franken had twice claimed victory from the same spot in the Senate battle. But this third time, no threats of legal challenges stood in the way.

"Franni and I are so thrilled that we can finally celebrate this victory and I am so excited to finally be able to get to work for the people of Minnesota," Franken said at a press conference outside his Minneapolis residence.

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Just an hour and a half earlier, Republican Norm Coleman stood outside his St. Paul home conceding defeat.

"Franni and I are so thrilled that we can finally celebrate this victory."

"I've just had a conversation with Al Franken congratulating him on his victory and I told him it's the best job that he'll ever have, representing the people of Minnesota in the United States Senate," Coleman said.

Franken announced his campaign in February of 2007. Through the campaign, the recount and legal challenges the two sides spent upwards of $50 million.

There was speculation the battle would not end with the state Supreme Court and that Coleman would take the fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if he lost in Minnesota. But legal observers say such an appeal would have been an uphill battle considering the unanimous rulings that Franken won, first from the judicial panel that heard Coleman's election contest lawsuit and now from the Minnesota's highest court.

Signed election certificate
The election certificate signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
Photo Courtesy of the Office of Minnesota Secretary of State

Coleman made it clear it was finally over and he called for unity.

"Ours is a government of laws, not men and women and the Supreme Court of Minnesota has spoken," he said. "I respect its decision and I will abide by its results. It's time for Minnesotans to come together under the leaders it has chosen and move forward."

Minnesotans from all political points of view are arguably relieved the election that seemed like it never would end, is finally over. For Franken supporters, the day the ruling and concession came was a joyous day.

"It's a lovely Tuesday, day," said Mohamed Mohamed, who lives in downtown Minneapolis.

As he watched supporters and reporters gather outside Franken's home which is across the street from his, Mohamed said he's admired Franken since Franken's Air America radio show days.

Mohamed Mohamed
Mohamed Mohamed lives across the street from Al Franken. He said he's glad Franken will finally enter the Senate.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

"I'm happy today. This is finally the day the victory of our senator," Mohamed said.

Franken applauded Coleman for his gracious concession and he reached out to Coleman supporters and Minnesotans who did not vote for him.

Franken said he spoke with Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and that when he gets to the Senate, four committee positions will be waiting for him. Franken said he will serve on the Judiciary and the Health, Education, Labor and Pension committees, as well as the Indian Affairs Committee and the Special Committee on Aging.

Franken said he's been traveling between Washington and Minnesota in recent months preparing to become a senator but he acknowledged now that the time has come he's got a steep learning curve.

"I'm going to be junior to 99 other Senators and so I actually am going to be entering with a great deal of humility and with a lot to learn and also to do the work of the people of Minnesota," Franken said.

Media gather at Al Franken's home in Minneapolis
The media and a crowd of supporters gathered on the front steps of Al Franken's Minneapolis home after it was announced by the Minnesota Supreme Court that he won the election for Minnesota's remaining U.S. Senate seat.
MPR Photo/Steve Mullis

A spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid said Franken will be sworn in early next week.

Norm Coleman's future plans remain unclear.

Coleman has been talked about as a possible candidate for Minnesota's next governor. It's a position Coleman had his eyes long before he launched his 2002 Senate campaign at the urging of the Bush White House.

Coleman declined to answer reporter questions about a possible gubernatorial campaign, but said he may have something to say about his future as early as next week.