Nearly eight months after voters went to the polls, the Minnesota Senate race has finally yielded a winner: Democrat Al Franken.
Republican Norm Coleman conceded his loss in a press conference Tuesday afternoon, saying he has called to congratulate the former comedian on his victory. His statement came after the Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously rejected his appeal of a lower court ruling in Franken's favor.
"The Supreme Court of Minnesota has spoken," Coleman said. "I respect its decision and will abide by its result."
Coleman could have appealed the state court decision in the federal courts, though polls indicate that Minnesota voters wanted the legal battle between the onetime bitter rivals to draw to a close. The former senator said he believed that "it is time now to move forward."
"Sure, I wanted to win," he told reporters from outside his home in St. Paul. "Not just for myself but for my wonderful supporters and the important values I have always fought for. I also thought it was important to stand up for enfranchising thousands of Minnesotans whose votes weren't counted like the others were."
But Coleman said that any "further litigation damages the unity of our state."
"I don't reach this point with any big regrets," he said, reading from a written statement. "I ran the campaign I wanted. I conducted the legal challenge I wanted. And I have always believed you do the best you can and leave the results up to a higher authority. I'm at peace with that. As to my future plans, that's a subject for another day."
"I look forward to working with Senator-Elect Franken to build a new foundation for growth and prosperity by lowering health care costs and investing in the kind of clean energy jobs and industries that will help America lead in the 21st century," President Obama said in a statement released immediately after Coleman's concession.
Franken spoke later in the day, saying the concession call from Coleman had been "very gracious."
"I can't wait to get started," Franken said.
After November election results indicated that he had secured a slim victory over Franken, Coleman urged his rival to drop out of the race. But Franken resisted and emerged from an automatic recount with a slim lead. His advantage held up amid a series of court battles that led to the longest Senate vacancy in more than three decades.
Franken's final margin of victory over Coleman was 312 votes out of 2.9 million cast.
"It's time for Minnesota to come together under the leaders it has chosen and move forward," Coleman said Tuesday. "I join all Minnesotans in congratulating our newest United States Senator – Al Franken."
Coleman's concession means that Minnesota Republican governor Tim Pawlenty can now sign Franken's election certificate without angering national Republicans. GOP leaders, wary of the impact of another Democratic senator, have raised money for Coleman's legal effort.
"I did talk to the governor and let him know I was coming out here to make his life a little easier," Coleman said at his press conference.
Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele said he is "deeply disappointed" in the Minnesota Supreme Court decision.
"At the core of our democracy lies two concrete principles: No valid vote should go uncounted and all votes should be treated equally," he said in a statement. "Sadly, those principles were not adhered to during this election."
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