After one of the closest elections in recent history and eight months of protracted legal appeals, Minnesota finally has a new junior senator - Democrat Al Franken.
The race ended officially last week when one-term Republican incumbent Norm Coleman called Mr. Franken to concede. The call followed the Minnesota Supreme Court's unanimous ruling earlier in the day that the lower court had not erred when it excluded thousands of absentee ballots from the final tally.
Mr. Coleman had appealed to the state supreme court to overrule a lower court on the grounds that the absentee ballots favored his candidacy. The margin without the absentee ballots was 312 votes in Mr. Franken's favor out of 2.9 million ballots cast.
Republicans outside of the state encouraged Mr. Coleman in his quixotic challenge because of fears of a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate. Mr. Coleman could have appealed to federal court and, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court, but it would have infuriated the weary voters of Minnesota, who are eager to be represented by two senators again.
Last Tuesday night, Minnesota's Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed Mr. Coleman's election certificate. Mr. Franken could be seated early next week. His staff is already in place and eager to engage in Senate business.
For his part, Mr. Franken has insisted that he won't be going to Washington as the dependable 60th vote in a filibuster-proof Democratic majority. He said that he will be going to D.C. to represent the interests of his constituents in Minnesota.
Mr. Franken, a former comedian and writer for Saturday Night Live, is the latest in a string of nontraditional candidates to win high office in Minnesota. World Wrestling Entertainment commentator Jesse "The Body" Ventura ran as an Independent for governor and won - over Mr. Coleman and a third candidate - in 1998.
Now that Governor Pawlenty, who is rumored to have presidential ambitions, announced that he won't run for that office again, it is believed that Mr. Coleman will seek that office. We will soon find out whether the former senator has worn out his welcome with Minnesotans disgusted by the protracted Senate race.
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