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The U.S. Senate will finally get its 100th member sometime next week. That would be Al Franken of Minnesota. The Democrat's election over Republican Norm Coleman was sealed yesterday when the Minnesota Supreme Court declared Franken the winner, and Coleman conceded. Coming up, we'll ask NPR's political editor Ken Rudin about the Democrats' 60-seat majority in the Senate. First, we have this report from Tom Weber of Minnesota Public Radio on the end of an eight-month slog for people there.
TOM WEBER: While visiting friends in Denver this weekend, D.J. Ingle(ph) was ribbed for being from the state that just can't pick a senator. So yesterday, after landing at Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport and hearing the news, Ingle was relieved.
Mr. D.J. INGLE: It's been a long time, and I'm glad that they finally got it resolved. A lot of money has been spent at taxpayers' expense to try to resolve something that should have been done a long time ago, and thank goodness it is over.
WEBER: Minnesota has had only one senator this year, Democrat Amy Klobuchar, who says her office became a stop for some tour guides at the Capitol when the novelty was at its peak, but no more. Minnesota will soon be a two-senator state - at least as of next week, when Al Franken will likely to be sworn in. The senator-elect says he's humbled.
Senator-elect AL FRANKEN (Democrat, Minnesota): One thing I really do take away from this is that I won by 312 votes. So I really have to earn the trust of the people who didn't vote for me and of all the people of Minnesota.
WEBER: The inconclusiveness wasn't the only reason political eyes were on Minnesota this year. Franken represents a potential 60th vote for Democrats in the Senate, which could make some legislation filibuster-proof. But Al Franken says it's more important to be Minnesota's second senator than the Dems' 60th.
Senator-elect FRANKEN: You know, 60 is a magic number, but it isn't. Because we know that we have senators who - Republicans who are going to vote with the Democrats, with the majority of Democrats in certain votes, and Democrats that are going to vote with a majority of Republicans on others. So, it's not quite as a magic number as some people may say.
WEBER: The magic number for Franken, though, was 312. That was the margin of votes that a trial court ruled Franken won by after a statewide recount of the November 4th election. Yesterday's unanimous ruling by five Minnesota Supreme Court justices affirmed that margin and rejected legal arguments that Republican Norm Coleman had made. Following the ruling, Coleman called Franken to congratulate him and then told reporters he was ready to move on.
Senator NORM COLEMAN (Republican, Minnesota): I ran the campaign I wanted. I conducted the legal challenge I wanted. I have always believed you do the best you can, and then you leave the results up to a higher authority. I'm at peace with that.
WEBER: Norm Coleman still technically had legal options following yesterday's decision. He could have appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, or he could have started an entirely new lawsuit in federal court. But University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs says Coleman was left with a very shaky legal case.
Professor LARRY JACOBS (Political Scientist, University of Minnesota): He's had a whole bunch of judges, some of whom you might think would be prone to give him a good hearing, who've come out against him. He's financially busted. And the other part is I think he's got his eye on the gubernatorial race, where he'll be, you know, one of the first-tier candidates.
WEBER: That gubernatorial race will take place next year and went up for grabs a few weeks ago when the current Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty, announced he won't seek a third term. Jacobs and others say Coleman would be a formidable opponent because he knows how to raise money and run statewide. He's done it twice before. At this point, though, with the latest campaign concluded just hours ago and Al Franken ready to be sworn in, Norm Coleman isn't saying whether he's up for another race.
For NPR News, I'm Tom Weber in St. Paul.
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