Franken wins – 239 days after election

Senate incumbent Coleman bows out after Minnesota's Supreme Court rules for the Democratic challenger. Democrats gain crucial 60th Senate seat.

By , Staff writer

Al Franken now knows that he’s good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like him.

That, of course, is a famous line from his days on "Saturday Night Live," when he mocked the self-help movement as the character Stuart Smalley. But in his most recent incarnation, he is now a Democratic US senator from Minnesota.

Two-hundred-thirty-nine days after the 2008 election, Mr. Franken won his race for the US Senate. After a protracted court battle, which culminated Tuesday with a unanimous Minnesota Supreme Court ruling in Franken’s favor, incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R) conceded the race.

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Democrats get, in theory, a supermajority

The victory gives the Democrats their 60th seat in the US Senate – a supermajority that, in theory, makes the body filibuster-proof. But even if getting all Senate Democrats to vote together – including two who have been absent due to illness – is tough, at the very least having Franken on board gives the party one more critical vote as it heads toward contentious votes on energy legislation and healthcare.

In remarks to supporters in St. Paul, Mr. Coleman congratulated Franken and explained why he opted not to take his case into federal court.

“I have never believed that my service is irreplaceable,” he said. “We have reached the point where further litigation damages the unity of our state, which is also fundamental. In these tough times, we all need to focus on the future. And the future today is we have a new United States senator.”

Minnesota's high court found for Franken

Earlier on Tuesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court had ruled 5-to-0 to uphold a three-judge panel’s ruling that found Franken had won 312 more votes than former Sen. Norm Coleman last Nov 4. On Sunday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) told CNN that he would abide by the ruling of his state’s highest court, however it ruled. By conceding, Coleman takes Governor Pawlenty out of the awkward position of having potentially to go against the wishes of his party, if he had opted not to certify the race after all. Pawlenty is not running for reelection in 2010 and is believed to be considering a run for the presidency in 2012.

With Pawlenty leaving the governor’s seat, one option for Coleman is to run for that office. But in his remarks Thursday, he said he had not made a decision about the future.

The last time the Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate was in the 94th Congress, 1975-1977. Then, the Democrats had 60 seats, Republicans held 38, one member belonged to the Conservative Party, and there was one independent. In the current Senate, two members classified as independent caucus with the Democrats, and thus the Democrats effectively hold 60 seats.

According to numbers tallied by MSNBC, the recount cost at least $11 million and the two candidates spent $50.3 million in all between them. A total of 2,424,946 votes were cast, and the final victory margin was 312 votes.

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