By Aaron Blake - 07/01/09 02:07 PM EDT
The senator-elect alternated between jokes and emotion Wednesday in a victory rally that was, as he acknowledged, more than two years in the making.
The Democrat spoke alongside his wife, Franni, as well as Reps. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) at the state capitol in St. Paul. He cracked jokes about the campaign and his work ahead while taking a humble view of his service in the seat of his friend, former Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.).
Franken learned Tuesday that he would assume his late friend’s seat eight months after he and Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) were paired alongside each other on the 2008 ballot and 29 months after Franken announced he would run for Senate
Coleman succeeded Wellstone, who died tragically in a plane accident just before the 2002 election.
“This seat belongs to the people of Minnesota, and so did Sen. Wellstone, and so will I,” Franken said.
Just minutes later, Franken offered one of a series of jokes for the occasion. While his wit was largely muted on the campaign trail, the former "Saturday Night Live" star and comedian seemed to open up and embrace his victory with humor.
“No matter how difficult the challenges we face, I still believe there’s no challenge America can’t overcome,” he said. “But I also believe that no politician can solve these problems alone. I wish I could take all of you out to Washington with me, but we costed it out. It’s too much.”
Franken promised progress on President Obama’s agenda and gave a special shout-out to his “brothers and sisters in labor.”
Those labor groups will be counting on him for their top initiative, the union-organizing Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), or card-check.
“Franni and I would not have had health insurance for the last four years if I had not been a member of a union,” Franken said.
After a lengthy court challenge, Coleman conceded the race Tuesday. Earlier in the day, the state Supreme Court had ruled that none of his arguments seeking to overturn the result had merit.
The court also ruled that Franken’s election could be certified — a move that would have allowed for Franken to be seated even if Coleman had pressed further with his legal challenge.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) announced later Tuesday that he had signed Franken’s election certificate. Franken could be sworn in as early as Monday, when the Senate returns from its Independence Day recess.