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Don Davis, Published July 02 2009

Looser Franken celebrates his victory

ST. PAUL – “Live, from Washington, it’s Sen. Al Franken!”

That may not be the Minnesota senator-elect’s line, but on Wednesday hundreds of supporters got a glimpse of a looser Al Franken than has surfaced in quite some time, more akin to how he appeared in front of the entertainment camera than the campaign camera.

He thanked Minnesotans for putting him in the U.S. Senate, promising, “I’m not going to waste that chance.”

The party on the state Capitol’s front lawn came 23 hours after the Minnesota Supreme Court released a ruling declaring Democrat Franken beat Republican Norm Coleman by 312 votes in Nov. 4’s U.S. Senate election. Franken is to take the oath of office next week.

After 2.9 million Minnesotans voted, it took a recount and a Coleman court challenge to determine the winner.

Franken elicited applause from the crowd when he praised Coleman’s statesmanship on Tuesday by conceding the election.

“We wish him and his family the best,” Franken said to cheers, quite a contrast from the reaction the name “Coleman” received at Franken campaign rallies last year.

Freed from the stress of an eight-month election recount and court challenge, the 58-year-old former “Saturday Night Live” star and writer cracked jokes and launched into a crowd in front of the Minnesota Capitol.

“I would like to take all of you to Washington,” he told the crowd. “I can’t. I costed it out.”

He also was sentimental, especially when it came to his wife, Franni. Tears came to his eyes when he thanked her for her help, then recalled that the two met nearly 40 years ago at a college freshman mixer. “We have been together ever since.”

Franken told the victory rally that without his wife, “I would have lost, by kind of a lot.”

She was introduced to the chants of “Franni, Franni.” She simply responded: “We have to keep meeting like this.”

While state Republican Chairman Tony Sutton, in his first day on the job, criticized Franken for holding a partisan rally instead of an inclusive one in light of his tight victory, the Democrat-heavy rally was enthusiastic.

Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota’s only senator since Coleman’s term ended in early January, fired up the rally by saying, “This is the day we move forward.”

Ironically, 13 months ago Klobuchar was not behind Franken the day before the state’s Democrats endorsed him in Rochester. She and other Democratic-Farmer-Laborite women were not happy with his writing that some described as pornographic and degrading to women. After the endorsement, Klobuchar campaigned for Franken.

Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. He can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com