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Benny Polacca, Published July 25 2007

Al Franken stumps in Moorhead

Al Franken spent 15 years making millions of people laugh each week while he starred on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” in the 1980s and 1990s.

He did the same Tuesday night in Moorhead for more than 100 people while campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat from Minnesota in 2008.

Franken, 56, said he uses humor while campaigning to convey how serious he is about running for the Senate.

“I will be fighting for the average Minnesotans,” he said. Franken – also an author and former radio show host – said he plans to address issues including education, health care, renewable energy and the war in Iraq.

Franken, a DFL candidate, is attempting to unseat first-term Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, whom he criticized several times Tuesday night.

Franken, who opposes the war in Iraq, said Coleman had a chance to support bringing military servicemen home, but didn’t. He believes Coleman’s vulnerability on the war could affect voters’ decisions next year.

Coleman said earlier this month he rejects a specific withdrawal date from Iraq, but added that troops need to be removed from heavy combat next year.

“I’m going to hold him accountable,” Franken said of Coleman.

Student loan debt is one area Franken plans to address as a senator.

Federal Pell grants that once covered 90 percent of college tuition now cover only 40 percent, he said. “When I get to the Senate, I’m going to change that.”

Born in New York, Franken grew up in Albert Lea and St. Louis Park, Minn. He has a bachelor’s degree in government from Harvard University.

Franken worked as a writer and cast member on “Saturday Night Live” from 1975-80 and 1985-1995.

Two of his books are “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations” and “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.”

He was also host of his own radio show on Air America Radio for three years.

“I did a lot of political comedy,” Franken said of his SNL work. “I’m proud of it.”

Franken said his satire is used to look at popular culture in order to see its absurdities and hypocrisies.

“That’s a talent that can be used in the United States Senate,” he said.

Minnesota State University Moorhead student Jeff Zens attended Franken’s rally. “I loved all of it, he’s a good speaker.”

Zens said Franken’s celebrity status won’t influence his vote. “I’d vote for him on his message.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Benny Polacca at (701) 241-5504