Former U.S. Senator Norm Coleman, a Republican conceded defeat Tuesday to Democrat Al Franken in the disputed Senate race in the Midwestern state of Minnesota. The move followed a decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court that affirmed Franken's narrow win.
More than seven months after the election, Norm Coleman came before reporters at his home in St. Paul, Minnesota to concede defeat.
"I join all Minnesotans in congratulating our newest U.S. Senator, Al Franken," said Norm Coleman.
The announcement came after the state Supreme Court declared, in a unanimous decision, that Franken had won the race by a margin of 312 votes. The court rejected an appeal by Coleman to include some 4,000 absentee ballots that had been rejected for various reasons.
Two of the court's seven justices did not take part in the decision. They recused themselves because they had served on a canvassing board that performed a recount earlier this year.
The court ruled that Franken is "entitled" to the senate seat, but stopped short of ordering the governor to officially certify him. The state's Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty, widely seen as a potential presidential candidate, refused to certify Franken after the recount, saying that he would wait until the state Supreme Court had ruled. The court's decision and Coleman's concession presumably removes any obstacle for Franken's certification.
Al Franken spoke to reporters on Tuesday, saying that Norm Coleman had telephoned him to congratulate him on the victory. He described the call as "gracious".
Franken conceded that he will have some catching up to do, coming in six months after the Senate session began. But he said he is ready.
"I cannot tell you exactly when I will be seated, but I think it will be early next week," said Al Franken. "Coming in mid-session will be more difficult than having started January 6th, I am sure. But I have been trying to keep abreast of what is going on and I will do the best I can."
The 58-year-old Franken is a former comedian and actor who also served as a liberal radio talk show host before deciding to run for office. Coleman, who is 59, was mayor of St. Paul before entering the U.S. Senate in 2003.
The addition of Franken will provide the Democrats with 60 votes in the U.S. Senate, giving President Barack Obama and party leaders a better chance of passing controversial legislation such as health care reform and a cap-and-trade bill aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming. The 60-vote advantage is also important because it will make it far more difficult for Republicans to block passage of bills through a filibuster, in which senators tie up the floor in long speeches to prevent a vote. It takes 60 votes to end such a maneuver.