Franken Wins Minnesota Senate Seat, State Supreme Court Rules

Franken gives victory speech after prolonged battle for U.S. Senate seat.

ByABC News
June 30, 2009, 2:27 PM

June 30, 2009 -- The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in favor of comedian-turned-Democratic candidate Al Franken in his prolonged battle to become a U.S. Senator.

"I received a very gracious call from Sen. Coleman. He wished me well. And we agreed that it is time to bring this state together," said Senator-elect Franken during his victory speech outside his home in Minnesota.

"I'm also humbled, not just by the closeness of this election, but by the enormity of the responsibility that comes with this office," he added.

"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," said former Sen. Norm Coleman in his concession speech outside his home in St. Paul, MN.

Mr. Coleman added that in a phone conversation with Mr. Franken he told the former Saturday Night Live cast member that he is about to begin "the best job he'll ever have." Sen. Coleman refused to speak about his political future. He said those decisions will come in the days to come and he plans to make an announcement next week.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) has announced he is not running for reelection next year which has created an open seat contest for the state's highest job.

Out of more than 2.4 million votes cast, Franken bested Republican Norm Coleman by 312 votes. Today's court ruling marks the end of this extremely extended process.

Franken's defeat over Coleman provides Democrats with a super-majority in the U.S. Senate with 60 seats on their side of the aisle. President Obama clearly won't be able to count on all 60 votes on every single issue, but it certainly provides a boost to the White House and Harry Reid as they enter into policy negotiations with the Republican leadership in the Senate.

It takes 60 votes to cut off a filibuster in the U.S. Senate. The seating of Al Franken potentially robs an embattled Republican Party of one of the strongest weapons of opposition in its arsenal.

"I'm not going to Washington to be the 60th Democratic Senator, I'm going to Washington to be the second senator from the state of Minnesota and that is how I am going to do this job," said Franken in his victory speech outside of his home in Minnesota.

"The people of Minnesota will now finally get the brilliant and hardworking new senator they elected in November and the full representation they deserve. After all the votes have been counted and recounted, the Minnesota Supreme Court has made the final determination that Minnesotans have chosen Al Franken to help their state and our country get back on track," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

It appears Senator-elect Franken (D-MN) will be getting right into the thick of things when he arrives in Washington, DC next week to be sworn in as Minnesota's junior senator. The two major issues dominating Capitol Hill this summer, health care legislation and the Sotomayor nomination, will be falling under his jurisdiction. Mr. Franken announced today that he will be serving on the HELP, Judiciary, Indian Affairs, and Aging committees in the United States Senate.

It's been 239 days since Minnesota voters headed to the polls to vote for a U.S. Senator. In that time, Barack Obama filled his Cabinet (including three Commerce Secretary nominations), Caroline Kennedy considered and declined the chance to become a U.S. Senator, Congress passed a whopping $787 billion stimulus package, Arlen Specter became a Democrat, and Michelle Obama planted and harvested a White House vegetable garden.

"We've always said that Norm Coleman deserved his day in court, and he got eight months. Now we expect Governor Pawlenty to do the right thing, follow the law, and sign the election certificate," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ).

Gov. Pawlenty issued a statement this afternoon indicating he is ready to sign the election certificate. "In light of [the court] decision and Senator Coleman's announcement that he will not be pursuing an appeal, I will be signing the election certificate today as directed by the court and applicable law," said Pawlenty.

It appears the court ruled that Gov. Pawlenty should do just that. "We affirm the decision of the trial court that Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast and is entitled. . . to receive the certificate of election as United States Senator from the State of Minnesota," wrote the court in its ruling today.

Sen. Coleman, R-Minn., found himself ahead of Franken by 215 votes at the conclusion of the vote canvass in mid-November 2008. The margin between the two candidates was less than one half of one percent, which automatically triggered a recount.

At the conclusion of the recount in January 2009, Franken had overtaken Coleman's lead and the Minnesota State Canvassing Board certified the election results with a 225 vote victory for the Democrat.

The next day, the Coleman campaign filed a lawsuit in Minnesota state court contesting the results of the election. The three judge panel that heard the Coleman contest allowed for consideration of only about 400 wrongly rejected absentee ballots. Coleman's legal team had argued for a far wider universe of thousands of absentee ballots to be reexamined because of what the Coleman campaign believed to be different treatment of absentees in different counties.