Al Franken Enters Minnesota Senate Race
Wednesday, February 14, 2007; 9:30 PM
MINNEAPOLIS -- Al Franken announced Wednesday that he will run for the Senate in 2008, making it clear that the comedian and author of "Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot" wants to be taken seriously as a political figure.
Franken said he would seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican incumbent Norm Coleman and immediately acknowledged the doubts voters may have about electing a former "Saturday Night Live" performer.
"Minnesotans have a right to be skeptical about whether I'm ready for this challenge, and to wonder how seriously I would take the responsibility that I'm asking you to give me," Franken said in a video on his Web site.
"I want you to know: Nothing means more to me than making government work better for the working families of this state, and over the next 20 months, I look forward to proving to you that I take these issues seriously," he said.
Franken's announcement came on the final day of his show on the liberal radio network Air America. His decision instantly makes him a serious contender and brings national attention to the race. He said he supports universal health care, greater efforts to find alternative energy sources and stronger congressional oversight of the executive branch.
Franken had been considering a run since 2003. He said several weeks ago that he would leave Air America and privately told prominent Democrats about his plans to seek office.
His name is well-known, and Franken is likely to be well-funded, but he's expected to be challenged by several other Democrats, including wealthy trial attorney Mike Ciresi. Franken said he would abandon his campaign if Democratic activists decide to support another candidate in the primary.
The race will be important to Democratic efforts to retain the slim Senate majority they secured last year.
His candidacy will also test whether Minnesotans are in the mood for another celebrity-turned-politician, after the 1999-2003 governorship of former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura. Ventura's fame and occasionally outrageous behavior regularly brought national attention to the state but wore on the patience of many Minnesotans.
Stephen Hess, a professor of political science at George Washington University, said Franken's bid is serious. "He's not doing this as some folks have done it to give them better gigs on the Borscht circuit."
Coleman is viewed as vulnerable because of a Democratic resurgence in Minnesota and President Bush's unpopularity. But his proven skills as a campaigner and fundraiser make him a formidable opponent.
State GOP Chairman Ron Carey suggested Franken moved back to Minnesota when he smelled opportunity and will have a tough time connecting with voters.