Franken Finally Nearing Victory Over Coleman in Minnesota Senate Race

Word is that state Supreme Court Minnesota will back the Democrat, and then the musical chairs begin.

John Mashek
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MINNEAPOLIS—The seemingly never-ending saga of the Senate race in Minnesota may finally be over soon. The word around the Twin Cities is that Democrat Al Franken will be certified the winner after the State Supreme Court rules against Republican Norm Coleman's appeal of the outcome last November.

The state has been without its second seat in the Senate because of the drawn-out process by Republicans here and in Washington. The backdrop was clear: The GOP did not want a 60th Democrat in the Senate, giving President Obama a potential vote to deny filibusters by the minority as well as a veto-proof chamber.

Republicans claim they have had the right to appeal and they are correct. But many of them are the same folks who howled "sore loser" in 2000 when Al Gore contested the disputed presidential vote count in Florida. The stakes were much higher then, and gave us George W. Bush and Dick Cheney for eight long years.

The story in Minnesota could have another chapter or two. Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a two-term Republican, announced this month that he would not seek a third term in 2010. It touched off immediate speculation that he would run for president in 2012. Pawlenty was on Sen. John McCain's final list as a running mate last year before McCain settled on Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

Coleman, meanwhile, may not go quietly from the scene. The political word is spreading that he has told Republican money donors to hold back before committing on the governor's race. The field in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party is a large one, and Coleman would likely get little or no opposition if he decides to run.

However, the shuffle of seats may not sit well with Gopher State voters. Coleman's obstinance in the Senate race has some negative implications, as the state has been without a second vote during the winter, spring, and into the summer months.

Coleman also faces a huge legal bill. A court in St. Paul ruled last week that he owed Franken's campaign nearly $100,000 in fees. And while Coleman will likely get assistance from national donors in the party, his legal tab will run into the millions.

Both parties elected state chairs last weekend with the losing Republicans promising "new ideas" in the future to challenge the DFL.

Some suggestions from this corner (that will go unheeded):

1. Tell Coleman to be humble following this marathon challenge of his race with Franken. It may make him a few new friends.

2. Tell Rep. Michele Bachmann that it is fine to be conservative, but to stop making loony charges that wind up in the national news. She is becoming the poster lady for far-right statements in Congress.

3. Return to the more moderate views exemplified by past Republican Govs. Elmer Andersen and Harold LeVander and Rep. Al Quie, a House member who championed progressive education measures in Congress.

Minnesota has had a reputation as a good-government state with clean politics and a taxation policy that does not ignore the needs of urban or agricultural residents. (Full disclosure: I am a proud graduate of the University of Minnesota.)

That reputation could use a little polishing.

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