US Senate: Franken wins quickly this time

Franken kisses his wife, Franni
U.S. Sen. Al Franken kisses his wife, Franni, on the stage after his acceptance speech at DFL headquarters in Minneapolis.
Jennifer Simonson / MPR News

Updated: 11:45 p.m. | Posted: 6 p.m.

Minnesota voters handed Sen. Al Franken a much quicker victory Tuesday than they did six years ago. Franken was declared the winner over first-time Republican candidate Mike McFadden shortly after the polls closed.

• Election 2014: Local, statewide and national results | Coverage of key races | Photos from around Minnesota

With more than 80 percent of the vote in, Franken had tallied 54 percent of the vote to McFadden's 42 percent.

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Six years ago, as a first-time candidate, Franken defeated Sen. Norm Coleman by 312 votes, prevailing only after a long and costly recount.

Mike McFadden prepares to take the stage.
Mike McFadden prepares to take the stage to concede the Senate race on Tuesday night.
Courtney Perry / For MPR News

Franken addressed supporters shortly before 11 p.m., thanking educators, farmers, students and other Minnesotans.

"Thank you for taking a chance on me six years ago and thank for giving me the chance to keep working for you in Washington. I promise to do everything I can to reward your trust or if you didn't vote for me to earn it over the next six years."

"I think he worked hard," said the state's other Democratic senator, Amy Klobuchar. "I think that when he first got into office he was up against a lot. There were some people that really didn't want him there. He just put his head down, he got to work and he got some things done for our state and I think people reward that in our state."

Franken made gains over his 2008 race around the state. In Hennepin County, for example, which he carried easily six years ago, he increased his share from 58 to 62 percent.

But even in Republican country like suburban Carver County, Franken increased his share of the vote from 34 percent six years ago to 39 percent on Tuesday.

And in suburban Washington County, where Franken lost six years ago, voters were leaning in his favor with three-quarters of precincts reporting.

McFadden addressed his supporters about 10:30 but did not mention Franken in his speech.

"I can tell you that the Republican Party is in so much better shape than it was two years ago," he said. "We have an opportunity to change this state from a purple state to a red state but it takes hard work. Our message needs to be one of hope. The time has come to stop being angry.

"Hold your heads high. The fight has just begun."

• Election 2014: Local, statewide and national results | Coverage of key races | Photos from around Minnesota

McFadden, an investment banker, ran a campaign based on painting Franken as too partisan and too close to President Obama, criticizing in particular Franken's support for the Affordable Care Act. He called for reducing regulations on business and for simplifying the tax system. He also tried to use concern about the Ebola virus to criticize Franken.

McFadden initially excited Republican insiders, including former Sens. Norm Coleman and Rudy Boschwitz, when he announced his campaign in spring 2013. He raised $750,000 in just 30 days.

But Franken maintained comfortable leads in both the polls and money-raising throughout the campaign.

Franken celebrates
Sen. Al Franken, center, watches results come in on Tuesday night in Minneapolis.
Glen Stubbe / The Star Tribune via AP

Franken countered McFadden's charges by arguing that he is adept at working across party lines. Franken has sponsored a few high-profile legislative successes, including a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of their premium dollars on direct medical care. The provision resulted in sizeable rebates for more than 12 million insurance policy holders, including about 9,100 Minnesotans.

Franken has also been an outspoken opponent of a proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner as well as new campaign finance rules that allow corporations to invest more money in elections.

One of Franken's first legislative efforts was a bill that paired service dogs with veterans who have mental or physical wounds from combat.

Franken's victory ran counter to the national trend as Republicans gained control of the Senate.

It also puts him and Klobuchar in position to serve longer in the Senate as a pair than any other Democrats in Minnesota history, assuming both remain in office through next summer. Eugene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey served together six years beginning in 1959. Then McCarthy and Walter Mondale did so another six years, followed by six years of Mondale and Humphrey.

(Among Republicans in recent history, Rudy Boschwitz and David Durenberger served together 12 years, from 1979 through 1990.)

Franken grew up in St. Louis Park and graduated from Harvard University. A writer and performer on Saturday Night Live, Franken earned five Emmy Awards for his work on the show. After leaving SNL, Franken wrote a series of bestselling books of political satire and later hosted a radio program on the Air America Network.