Tuesday, June 30th, 2009
Eight months after Minnesota voters went to the polls, the state is about to get a new senator. And it’s not the old one – Norm Coleman, the Republican whose last appeal of the razor-thin election was rejected by the Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday in a unanimous decision.
A lower court ruled that Democrat Al Franken, the former Saturday Night Live comic, won the election by 312 votes, but Coleman continued to argue that an additional 4000 absentee ballots should be counted.
The Minnesota high court disagreed, and on Tuesday Coleman conceded (see an MSNBC video of his concession speech here). Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican presidential hopeful for 2012, indicated he will move quickly to certify Franken’s election, allowing him to take the vacant seat in the Senate chamber.
“Further litigation damages the unity of our state,” Coleman told reporters after the court decision. “The future today is that we have a new United States senator.”
Franken’s victory gives Senate Democrats the 60 vote super majority that could make it easier to stop Republican filibusters, something party leaders have longed for as they tackle health care, climate change, energy and other controversial issues.
The Minnesota decision won’t change the Jewish presence in the Senate since both Coleman and Franken are Jewish.
Jewish Democrats applauded the apparent end to the protracted political melodrama.
“We are proud that Franken will be the 13th Jewish senator who caucuses with the Democrats and will carry on the great legacy of the late Senator Paul Wellstone,” said Ira Forman, director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC).
No word on what Coleman will do now, although he has been working part time as a special consultant to the Republican Jewish Coalition.
What about future runs for state office? Hard to predict.
There’s speculation Coleman wants to run for governor to succeed Gov. Tim Pawlenty , a Republican with national ambitions.
It’s hard to imagine that Coleman’s standing with voters has improved after keeping the senate seat open with repeated challenges, despite an early recount indicting Franken was a clear, if not exactly overwhelming, winner.
But remember: this is a state with a penchant for political oddballs.
It was the state that elected and continues to admire former pro wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura, one of the strangest characters in modern American politics.
It’s a state that produced both the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, one of the most liberal members of the Senate, and Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Republican who’s the gift who keeps on giving for the Democrats because of her penchant for bizarre conspiracy theories and controversial statements. (Example: according to the Huffington Post, she implied “that swine flu epidemics are a Democratic phenomenon that dates back to President Carter.”
So in this anything-goes state, maybe Coleman does have a political future.