After almost eight months of recounts and legal battles reaching all the way to the state’s highest court, Republican Norm Coleman conceded the Minnesota Senate election to Democrat Al Franken on Tuesday.
Coleman conceded in a press conference outside of his St. Paul home shortly after the Minnesota Supreme Court denied his appeal to overturn a lower court’s ruling in favor of Franken. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Franken, who holds a 312-vote lead over Coleman.
The five justices stated that the Coleman team did not show that the lower court’s April ruling was reached in error or that their findings of fact were “clearly erroneous.”
“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,” according to the decision.
Coleman’s main argument was a violation of equal protection — a rguing that the lower court was more stringent toward determining eligible votes than election officials were on election night.
Coleman said he called Franken to congratulate him, and doesn’t plan to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, despite suggesting such an action earlier during legal battles.
“To service the voters of Minnesota was to stand up and see that every vote counts and we took that to the highest court of Minnesota,” Coleman said.
But Coleman said the court has spoken, adding that he was “at peace” with the decision.
Gov. Tim Palwenty , who was in Washington D.C. early Tuesday, returned to Minnesota to sign the election certificate, despite the state Supreme Court not directly ordering him to do so.
Franken said he is “humbled” by the courts decision and is ready to get to Washington D.C., citing health care, job creation and green energy as particular areas of focus.
“I don’t know if it’s really sunk in yet,” he said at a press conference outside of his Minneapolis home. “When you win an election this close, you know not one bit of energy has gone to waste.”
With the addition of Franken and with Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter’s switch from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party early this year, the Democrats could have enough votes to overcome the Republican filibuster — a majority that some experts say could push major health care and other policy forward.
President Barack Obama issued a statement Tuesday, saying, "I look forward to working with Senator-Elect Franken to build a new foundation for growth and prosperity by lowering health care costs and investing in the kind of clean energy jobs and industries that will help America lead in the 21st century."
But Franken said the talk about him being the vote-breaking senator is unimportant.
“I’m not going to Washington to be the 60th vote,” he said. “I’m going to Washington to be the second senator for Minnesota.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn ., who has been working as the lone Minnesota senator since the election, issued a statement congratulating Franken on a “long-awaited and hard-earned victory” while noting that she respects Coleman’s decision to concede.
“He had the right to pursue a legal appeal, but he chose to do the right thing for Minnesota,” she said.
Coleman declined to comment on his future plans, but said he will make an announcement shortly after the holiday weekend on his next steps.
Franken said he expects to be sworn in as early as next week, as Congress is out for the holiday.
Democratic Party leaders have already assigned Franken to committees, including the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Judiciary Committee and the Indian Affairs Committee.
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