Republican Norm Coleman conceded to Democrat Al Franken in Minnesota’s contested Senate race on Tuesday, ending one of the longest election battles in recent US history.
Coleman, the former incumbent, conceded hours after a unanimous state Supreme Court ruled Franken, a former Saturday Night Live comedian, should be certified the winner.
Coleman announced his decision at a news conference in St Paul, bringing an end to a nearly eight-month recount and court fight over an election decided by only a few hundred votes.
After Franken is seated, which could come as early as next week, his party will have a majority not reached on either side of the aisle in some three decades. With Franken and the usual backing of two independents, Democrats would have a big enough majority to overcome Republican delaying tactics on legislative votes in the US Senate.
Franken, 58, has come a long way from the goofy 1980s Saturday Night Live skits where he mocked politicians, portrayed the self-affirming Stuart Smalley and pranced around in little more than a Speedo. His career evolved in the 1990s with books harpooning Limbaugh and he later gained a liberal following as a radio show host on the “Air America” network.
“When you win an election this close, you know not one bit of effort went to waste,” Franken said. “The way I see it, I’m not going to Washington to be the 60th Democratic senator, I’m going to Washington to be the second senator from Minnesota.”
He said he was ready to move to Washington.
“Franni and I are so thrilled that we can finally celebrate this victory,” Franken told reporters outside his downtown Minneapolis town house, where he was accompanied by his wife. He added: “I can’t wait to get started.”
In conceding, Coleman pulled the plug on a bitter election that was ultimately decided by 312 votes out of nearly 2.9 million cast.
Coleman could have carried his fight into federal court, but it was unlikely to overturn the state Supreme Court’s decision. The prospect created months of intrigue over whether Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty would sign an election certificate for Franken if Coleman was still pursuing appeals, a possibility that became moot with Coleman’s concession.
Pawlenty signed the certificate on Tuesday evening.
“The Supreme Court has made its decision and I will abide by the results,” Coleman said.
Appearing relaxed and upbeat, Coleman said he had congratulated Franken, was at peace with the decision and had no regrets about the fight.
“Sure I wanted to win,” said Coleman, who declined to talk about his future and brushed aside a question about whether he would run for governor next year.
“I thought we had a better case. But the court has spoken,” he said.
Franken declared his candidacy more than two years ago and he and Coleman combined to spend US$50 million in pursuit of the seat.
That’s more than double what was spent in 2002, when Coleman won the seat that had been held by the late Paul Wellstone.