Norm Coleman

Head, American Action Network (since early 2010)

In A
In B

Why He Matters

For almost eight months, Coleman was locked in one of the tightest Senate battles in history against comedian Al Franken to hang on to his Senate seat.

After a tight finish in November 2008, the contestants demanded a recount. On Jan. 5, 2008, the Minnesota Canvassing Board certified the results of the November Senate election, giving Franken a 225-margin victory out of 2.9 million over incumbent Coleman (R). But Coleman lodged a court challenge, preventing the governor and secretary of state from signing off on Franken's win. On June 30, 2009, the Minnesota Supreme Court unanimously declared Franken the winner.

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At a Glance

  • Career History: U.S. Senator (2002 to 2008); Mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota (1993 to 2001); Minnesota attorney general's office (1976 to 1993)
  • Birthday: August 17, 1949
  • Hometown: Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Alma Mater: Hofstra University, B.A. (political science), 1971; University of Iowa, J.D., 1976
  • Spouse: Laurie Casserly
  • Religion: Jewish
  • Office: Coleman for Senate, 680 Transfer Road, St. Paul, Minn., 651-645-0766
  • Web site

Path to Power

Coleman was born on August 17, 1949, and grew up in Brooklyn as one of eight children in a reform Jewish family. At Hofstra University, from which he graduated in 1971 with a degree in political science, Coleman was an anti-war activist and the student body president, a position he also held in law school at the University of Iowa. Upon graduation from law school in 1976, Coleman moved to Minnesota to take a job in the state attorney general's office. He rose to chief prosecutor and solicitor general in his 17-year career there. In 1981 Coleman married actress and model Laurie Casserly. They have two grown children and live in St. Paul. Two other children died in infancy from Zellweger syndrome.

St. Paul Mayor

In 1989, Coleman, running as a Democrat, entered the race for St. Paul mayor but dropped out when he didn't get the endorsement of the Democratic Farm Labor (DFL) Party. In 1993, he ran again and became the mayor of St. Paul by defeating the candidate the DFL had endorsed. As mayor, Coleman worked to revitalize downtown and bring private investments to St. Paul with the slogan "hope plus confidence equals investment."

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The Issues

Coleman voted with the majority of Republicans 78.7 percent of the time in the 110th Congress, perhaps not surprising for someone who was a registered Democrat until 1996. He was seen as a moderate Republican, a designation he made possible with votes against oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and for a minimum wage increase.

Coleman V. Franken

Though Franken declared his candidacy in February 2007, Coleman had a double-digit lead in the polls as late as August 2008. As the election neared, Coleman's lead disappeared. The race was divisive and nasty, with Franken pointing to a lawsuit that claimed Coleman failed to disclose financial gifts, and Coleman calling Franken's character into question. "I think folks have a right to look at the character, to look at the record," Coleman said in their last debate before the election. "Jokes about rape, is that a line [to cross]? Writing pornography for Playboy, is that a line? Calling a Supreme Court justice sexist, is that a line?"

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The Network

As head of American Action Network, Coleman will be working with some GOP eminence grises, including former Rep. Vin Weber (R-Minn.) and Fred Malek, a big Republican donor. On the AAN's board are former Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) and Rob Collins, a former top aide to House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

In the 2008 election, Coleman endorsed the moderate Republican Rudy Giuliani, a fellow former Democrat and prosecutor from Brooklyn who Coleman called "ultimately electable."

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Additional Resources

  1. Candidate biography, FOX News
  2. Almanac of American Politics, 2008 edition
  3. The U.S. Congress Votes Database, Washington Post
  4. Philips, Kate, "Court Rules Franken Has Won Senate Seat, Coleman Concedes," New York Times, June 30, 2009
  5. Coleman, Norm, "Kofi Annan Must Go," Wall Street Journal, Dec. 1, 2004
  6. Hotakainen, Rob, "Franken saying he'll run for Senate," Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Jan. 31, 2007
  7. "White House Defends Team After Calls for Change," FOX News, March 15, 2006
  8. Samuels, Terence, "Ambitious Crusader," U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 23, 2005
  9. "The Senator's Story," Norm Coleman's Web site
  10. Murphy, Esme, "Bailout Vote No-Win for Coleman in Senate Race," WCCO, Oct. 1, 2008
  11. Duchschere, Kevin, Kaszuba, Mike, and Doyle, Pat, "Recount: Results certified, Franken up, but no senator yet," (Minneapolis, Minn.) Star-Tribune, January 6, 2008
  12. Cillizza, Chris, The Washington Post, "Republican group American Action hopes to mimic Democrats' success," Feb. 15, 2010
  13. Johnson, Kirk, "Democrat is Winner in Recount of Minnesota Senate Race," New York Times, Jan. 5, 2009
  14. Condon, Patrick, "Coleman Franken Debate Gets Nasty as Election Looms," AP via Huffington Post, Nov. 2, 2008
  15. "Minn. Sen. Coleman Endorses 'Electable' Giuliani," USA Today, Nov. 2, 2007
  16. Welch, Chris, "Panel to declare Franken winner of Senate race," CNN, Jan. 4, 2009
  17. Kraushaar, Josh, "Coleman vows to challenge results," Politico, Jan. 5, 2009
  18. Nagourney, Adam, "In Minnesota, a Battle Without End for a Senate Seat," New York Times, April 15, 2009