Franken's Rival Drops Out of Senate Race

Comedian and author Al Franken is one step closer to realizing his goal of becoming the next U.S. senator from the state of Minnesota.

Mike Ciresi, Franken's chief competitor for the nomination of the Democratic Farmer Labor party (DFL), announced Monday that he is withdrawing from the race, paving the way for Franken to do battle with incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman this fall.

"I am announcing today my withdrawal from the contest for the DFL endorsement and the conclusion of my candidacy for the U.S. Senate," Ciresi said. "In my judgment, continuing the endorsement race would only lead to an unnecessary floor fight. It is time to step aside."

Ciresi, a wealthy trial lawyer known for winning a large 1998 settlement against the tobacco industry, entered the race last spring, but was never able to match Franken's fundraising successes. The former "Saturday Night Live" comedian, radio talk show host, and author not only won the fundraising battle, but also earned the coveted support of major labor unions.

Upon leaving the race, Ciresi encouraged his supporters "to remain committed to changing the direction of our nation and to support candidates of their choice.

"I firmly believe that America's best days are still ahead of us," he said. "As we return to private life, I will continue my efforts, as I have my entire life, to work with others in contributing to the common good of our state and nation."

A spokesperson for Franken said that the candidate would not be commenting on Ciresi's withdrawal until the two have had a chance to speak.

If Franken manages to defeat Coleman this fall, he would not be the first celebrity-turned-politician to win elected office in Minnesota. In 1998, the Land of 10,000 Lakes chose former professional wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura to serve as governor.