It took comedian Al Franken eight months, millions of dollars and an army of lawyers but he will soon be able to finally call himself Senator Franken, giving the Democratic party a potential 60-vote stranglehold on the U.S. Senate.
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled 5-0 Tuesday that Frankin did indeed win the long-disputed election against Republican incumbent Norm Coleman last November and Coleman finally conceded.
Most Republicans wanted Coleman to throw in the towel months ago but he fought what everyone else knew was a losing battle to the bitter end.
Bitter was what this campaign was: Bitterly fought, bitterly contested and bitterly challenged in the courts. In the end, Coleman’s concession was — in Franken’s words — "gracious" but the gracious thing would have been to admit defeat when the votes were recounted last year.
After nearly eight months of waiting, almost 20,000 pages of legal briefs, and millions of dollars in election costs, Al Franken emerged Tuesday as the next United States senator from Minnesota, ending one of the most protracted election recount battles in recent memory.
Mr. Franken, 58, a former comedian and author, could be seated in the Senate as early as Monday, leaders there said, providing Democrats with something they had long hoped for: 60 votes, and thus at least the symbolic ability to overcome filibusters.
Norm Coleman, a Republican who had held the seat for a term, conceded on Tuesday afternoon, hours after the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a ruling in Mr. Franken’s favor, the latest in a series of findings that had left Mr. Franken ahead in the count. In weeks past, some Republican leaders had urged Mr. Coleman to press on to the federal courts if need be, but those calls faded Tuesday.
“Ours is a government of laws, not men and women,” Mr. Coleman, 59, said in a statement he read before reporters outside his home in St. Paul. “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.”
It was an oddly abrupt ending to an election contest that had left Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, handling the state’s business alone and had left many ordinary Minnesotans weary of the fight.
All along, the candidates had been separated by the slightest of margins. With 2.9 million Minnesotans casting ballots last November, one early count showed Mr. Coleman ahead by 206 votes. Then, in a statewide hand recount set into motion by the close vote, the numbers fluctuated in the estimations of the campaigns and others trying to track them. Ultimately, a three-judge panel announced that Mr. Franken had won by 312 votes.
In issuing its 5-to-0 opinion, the Supreme Court found that Mr. Coleman, who had argued, in part, that thousands of absentee ballots had been wrongly excluded from the count, had failed to prove that “the trial court’s findings of fact are clearly erroneous or that the court committed an error of law or abused its discretion.”