Al Franken, calling himself “the next senator from Minnesota,” said Monday afternoon he is ready to go to Washington to get to work just as soon as possible.”
Franken deemed winner of Senate recount, but Coleman will contest in court
By Paul Demko, Minnesota Independent
Al Franken has emerged from the U.S. Senate recount with a 225-vote lead over incumbent Norm Coleman. The five-member State Canvassing Board unanimously certified the results at a hearing this afternoon. Roughly two months after the election — and following a painstaking statewide manual recount of nearly three-million ballots — Franken received 1,212,431 votes, while Coleman was backed by 1,212,206 voters.
While the actions of the canvassing board would seem to suggest that the epic election contest is finally drawing to a close, the Coleman campaign immediately made it clear that they have no intention of conceding defeat. Attorney Tony Trimble announced at a press conference following the canvassing board meeting that they will file a lawsuit contesting the outcome of the contest. The Republican’s campaign believes that various voting improprieties — wrongly rejected absentee ballots, double-counted ballots and lost ballots — have tarnished the recount.
“Since the process is far from complete there can be no confidence in the current results of the United States Senate recount,” Trimble said. “We will file a contest within the next 24 hours to promptly correct those problems.”
Franken, meanwhile, declared victory in front of his Minneapolis condominium this afternoon. Reports out of Washington today suggested that the Senate will attempt to seat him tomorrow with the other freshman legislators. Republicans have vowed to prevent that from happening through a filibuster.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and the four other members of the canvassing board expressed satisfaction at the conduct of the state-mandated recount. “I think this recount has proven the wisdom and the strength of that system in an amazing way,” Ritchie said at the close of the meeting. “This didn’t just fall from the sky. People long before us built this system.”
But canvassing board member G. Barry Annderson, a Minnesota Supreme Court justice, summed up the continuing ambiguity surrounding the ultimate outcome of the Senate contest. “I don’t think we’ve written the last chapter in this particular election,” he said.
But Franken didn’t respond to reporters’ shouted questions about exactly when he would go to Washington, retreating up the front steps of his downtown Minneapolis townhouse with his wife Frannie and campaign aides.
In a brief statement in which he twice referred to his “victory,” Franken also acknowledged just how close his 225-vote margin of victory over former Sen. Norm Coleman is. “I didn’t win the support of every Minnesotan. I’m going to have to earn it,” he said. “I work for you now and I will work hard to earn your confidence.”
Franken paid tribute to Coleman with a note of sympathy that recalled former Minnesota Gov. Karl Rolvaag’s statement after the state’s last big recount in 1962. ”I know that this isn’t easy” for the Colemans, Franken said, because his own family had faced tough days since the election, during a recount he called “long, fair and … thorough.”
With a nod toward threats of lawsuits and filibusters, Franken said he hoped Minnesota would continue to be served by two senators “without interruption.” Whatever happens on that score, Franken said he would “focus all my attention and all my energies” on working on issues facing Minnesotans — including an economy he said was in the “worst crisis since the Great Depression.”
Franken’s appearance was one of a very few he’s made since Election Day, and his statement included offerings of thanks to staff, supporters and others that “I wish I’d been able to give on Election Night.” He also thanked election workers in a state that he said had shown the world it “takes its democracy seriously.”
As Franken ended with a pledge to get to work, a woman passerby who had stopped to listen shouted out, “Yeah, get on the job!” From the tone of her voice, it wasn’t entirely clear whether she was a Franken fan, a Coleman backer, or simply another citizen ready for the recount to end.