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Published July 05 2009

Forum editorial: A gracious conclusion to recount

The extended recount of Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race was at times frustrating, at times infuriating. Now that it’s over, however, Minnesotans can reasonably look back at the process and characterize it as satisfying. After all, no matter what Republican mouthpieces say, it worked.

Democrat Al Franken will take the Senate oath this week, some eight months after an election that was as close as it gets in a statewide race. Former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman exercised all his rights under Minnesota law. State courts conducted a lengthy and thorough review of contested ballots. When the state Supreme Court made the final call last week, Coleman graciously congratulated Franken as the winner, rather than pursue the matter in federal courts, which was his option.

Coleman did the right thing. He was criticized for exhausting all state legal remedies, but he had no choice. The election was so close, so much was at stake (60 Democrats in the U.S. Senate), and so many people had worked so hard for the senator, he was obligated to carry the fight as far as he reasonably could.

For Franken’s part, he contended from the start that he had won, and all along the court road, his camp prevailed. Republicans can rag on the process. They can claim Franken’s people manipulated the courts and stole the election. But that argument is a loser because it implies Republicans believe Minnesota courts at nearly all levels are corrupt. The courts are not corrupt. Republicans seem to be munching mouthfuls of sour grapes.

Franken claims a victory but certainly not a mandate. Half the voters voted for Coleman. Franken was statesmanlike in his remarks, reminding listeners at a Capitol steps rally last week that he intends to represent all Minnesotans, regardless of party or whether they voted for him. That’s the right thing to say. But the Democrat’s political tilt can’t remain as steeply left as his campaign revealed if he is sincere about representing all his constituents. No one expects Franken to become a conservative, but Minnesotans who voted for the other guy expect the senator to respect the conservative inclinations that are part of the state’s political character.

The senator is the freshest of freshmen, but he’s in the majority party. It appears he will get a couple of committee assignments that will give him opportunities to be on the national stage and to work for Minnesota’s interests. That’s good news for the state.

We wish him success. After all, the senator’s success will be Minnesota’s success.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.