Norm Coleman today conceded defeat to Al Franken in the U.S. Senate contest in Minnesota following the Minnesota Supreme Court’s ruling that Franken won last November’s election, completing one of the longest election processes in American history and giving the Democrats an even larger majority in the Senate. “The Supreme Court has spoken. We have a United States senator,” Coleman said in a press conference outside of his house in Saint Paul, as his daughter stood beside him. “It’s time to move forward.”Coleman, who was elected to the seat in 2002, said he had called to congratulate Franken today following the court’s decision and also told the state’s Gov. Tim Pawlenty that he would concede. Pawlenty must sign an certificate certifying Coleman’s victory, which he is expected to do soon.
Franken will have a press conference later in the afternoon. President Obama, in a statement released by the White House, said “I look forward to working with Senator-Elect Franken.”
After a seven-month long election battle, Coleman said he still disagreed with the court’s decision, but “I think the issues have been heard.” Coleman had argued a recount of the vote there that put Franken ahead by 312 votes was improperly conducted and applied different standards to ballots in different counties in the state, but he decided against any further appeals.
“The election of Nov. 2008 is over,” he told reporters. “I congratulated Al Franken on victory.”
The longtime politician and former mayor of St. Paul said he wasn’t sure what he would do in the future, but said “I’m really at peace.”
Franken could be seated as soon as next week when the Senate returns from a holiday recess. His seating would give the Democrats a 60-seat majority in the Senate, potentially allowing them to stop Republicans from using the filibuster to slow down controversial bills, although Democrats Ted Kennedy (Mass.) and Robert Byrd (W.V.) have missed many votes this year because of health issues and might continue to do so.
The court’s unsigned opinion did not include a dissent from any of the five justices who heard the case. The court’s decision completes a legal process in Minnesota that started with a legally required recount after the Nov. 4 election, which ended with Coleman narrowly ahead by 206 votes out of almost three million cast. A statewide recount that lasted till January found after counting absentee ballots that had been improperly excluded, Franken was ahead by 225 votes.
Coleman filed a formal contest of the election in January, resulting in a two-month long trial where more absentee ballots were counted, and Franken emerged with a 312 vote lead. Coleman appealed the decision by the district court in April, and the state Supreme Court heard arguments in the case earlier this month.