Al Franken Wins Democratic Primary For Minnesota US Senate Seat

ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) -- Al Franken won a resounding endorsement for the U.S. Senate on Saturday from Minnesota Democrats, quickly dispatching with concerns about jokes that offended some and promising a tough challenge to Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.

"To the people of Minnesota, let me say this: I'm not a perfect person," said Franken, a former "Saturday Night Live" writer and performer. "I'm not going to pretend to have all the answers. But I'll tell the truth, I will keep my spine, and I will work for you."

Franken's only competitor, college professor and peace activist Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, withdrew after Franken passed the necessary 60 percent threshold on the first ballot. Nelson-Pallmeyer proposed that delegates unanimously back Franken, putting him over the top.

Franken's show of strength came as something of a surprise after a rocky few weeks in which some Democrats, led by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, criticized a racy column he wrote for Playboy magazine in 2000 and, earlier this week, joking comments he was reported to have made about rape that were included in a 1995 New York magazine article about "Saturday Night Live."

Rumors flew that Franken's support was collapsing, and that other candidates were considering a late entry into the endorsement stakes. Franken finally tackled the controversy head-on in his nomination speech to delegates, where he said some of the things he said and wrote over 35 years as a writer were "downright offensive."

"I understand that," Franken said. "And I understand that the people of Minnesota deserve a senator who won't say things that make them feel uncomfortable."

Nelson-Pallmeyer said he would work for Franken's election and won't run in the Democratic primary in September, and for now Franken is facing no opposition. But trial attorney Mike Ciresi, who dropped out of the endorsement race several months ago, has said in recent days that he is considering running in the primary.

Republicans have also hammered Franken for months on some of the more outrageous comments and writing from his years as a comedian, as well as problems with his personal finances. They promised to keep up the heat now that he is the chosen Democratic candidate.

Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan attacked Franken as "unqualified, unfit and unprepared to be a United States senator." He said the campaign will employ old Franken material.

"Al Franken wants to wants to talk about Norm Coleman's record. We're not going to be shy about talking about Al Franken's record," Sheehan said.

As he wooed delegates throughout the day, Franken used the Republican assault as a badge of honor and touted himself as someone who can take the fight right back to the GOP.

"The Republicans don't want me to be the nominee," Franken said. "But guess what? Thanks to you, I'm going to be, and guess what? I'm going to beat Norm Coleman by holding him accountable."

On Saturday morning, Franken took a key step in quelling controversy over his past jokes when he earned the endorsement of the feminist caucus of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, as the Democratic Party is known in Minnesota.

Jackie Stevenson, the group's leader, said the caucus was impressed with his direct answers on issues critical to members, including domestic violence. She said Nelson-Pallmeyer had been more vague.

She said the group was willing to look past salacious material from Franken's past that some have considered degrading to women.

"At the time he didn't realize how it would affect him later in life," Stevenson said. "He wouldn't do it again today."

Delegate Mike Zellmer, a 28-year-old retail manager from the Twin Cities suburb of Inver Grove Heights, didn't settle on Franken until recently. He said Franken's war chest, organization and name recognition won him over.

"He can go after Norm Coleman in a way Jack really can't," Zellmer said. Of the controversy surrounding Franken's past, Zellmer said, "I don't think the people of Minnesota will hold it against him."

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  • by Carie Location: Spicer, Minnesota on Jul 11, 2009 at 05:55 PM
    Money from outside sources has polluted the Minnesota politics - it has happened in other states as well. How stupid to vote for such a divisive person - this state cannot brag about clean politics anymore. (Now an independent voter)
  • by wr Location: nc on Jan 4, 2009 at 12:44 PM
    Doesn't anyone remember the "Me Al Frankin" character he played on SNL. Is this life imitating art?
  • by Red State Location: Washington Co. on Sep 10, 2008 at 06:28 AM
    Franken will undermine the political discouse of Minn and the country. I've rarely seen a more negative, hateful, or vicious person except maybe Michael Moore and (just to be fair) Michael Savage, but even his name is Savage so at least he's not pretending to be fair. LOL
  • by Rob Location: NC on Aug 17, 2008 at 07:12 PM
    Senator Franken is no scarier than President Obama. All of these evangelical, flag waving neo-cons, these "stupid white men"(quoting Michael Moore)are absolutely terrified of the "c-word". That word is "change".
  • by VBush Location: MHCY on Aug 17, 2008 at 10:42 AM
    Franken getting the nod from the democrats..It just goes to show that you really don't need any qualifications, have any kind of morals, or accountability for anything. That is the reason why we are headed down the road we are in America. As long as you can spout off the liberal, socialist agenda....they don't care what is in your past. It seems that the more time that goes by, the more scum they will endorse. Accountability means nothing to the liberals unless a conservative did it. Then and only then is it an outrage.
  • by Ted Location: Greenville on Jun 8, 2008 at 04:57 PM
    Sen. Franken now that is a scary thought.
  • by Ron Location: Merritt on Jun 8, 2008 at 10:35 AM
    Let's hope there are enough sane people in Minnesota in the final vote to defeat this creep. If there's anything this country doesn't need, it's another liberal, socialistic airhead in the Senate. If people don't wake up and quit electing these traitors, our great country is going to go right down the tubes.

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