Listen: Al Franken's Road to the Senate

MPR’s Mark Zdechilk presents the MPR Special Report “Minnesota’s Unending Senate Battle - Al Franken's Road to the Senate.” Chapters include The Campaign, The Election, and The Recount Trial.

Minnesota's 2008 Senate race will be remembered as the state's most hard-fought and most expensive. From the beginning, everyone seemed to agree that the race would be close. But no one predicted it would be one of the closest in history, or that it would take eight months to finally determine the winner.


2009 NBNA Eric Sevareid Award, first place in Documentary/Special - Large Market Radio category

2009 Minnesota AP Award, first place in Documentary/Investigative - Radio Division, Class Three category

2010 MNSPJ Page One Award, second place in Radio - Feature-length Documentary category

2010 National Headliner Award, first place in Documentary or Public Affairs -TV/Radio category


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GARY EICHTEN: First, the big story this week has been the Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that Democrat Al Franken actually won the 2008 US Senate election. On Tuesday, the court upheld a lower court ruling that found that Al Franken received more legally cast ballots than Republican Norm Coleman. An election certificate was issued Tuesday night. Franken will now be sworn in early next week.

In one sense, of course, that's the end of the story, but Minnesota's 2008 Senate race will be remembered as the closest and most expensive Senate race in state history. It took eight months following the election to actually certify a winner. And over the next hour, we're going to take a look back at the historic 2008 Minnesota Senate race. Here's a special report from Mark Zdechlik.


AL FRANKEN: If you think that President Bush has been right 90% of the time, well, then I'm not your guy.

NORM COLEMAN: I would say with honest humility, I think what I do best is what Minnesota needs most.

SPEAKER 1: I'm a kid. I don't pay taxes. Al Franken doesn't pay taxes or workers' comp either.

SPEAKER 2: Now, one of the oil guys Norm went fishing with has been convicted of bribery,

NORM COLEMAN: Defaming my wife-- you crossed the line.

AL FRANKEN: Norm Coleman is looking in the eye and lying.

DEAN BARKLEY: This has been an embarrassing campaign.

NORM COLEMAN: I was hopeful that the healing process for Minnesota would have begun today.

MARK RITCHIE: We don't know how long it will take.

GERALD ANDERSON: I couldn't believe this happened in America-- that they could take my vote away from me, but they did.

AL FRANKEN: This is not Florida. This is Minnesota. We got a case in Minnesota. Argue the case in Minnesota.


MARK ZDECHLIK: Minnesota's 2008 Senate race began taking shape years before Al Franken and Norm Coleman started bombarding the state with tens of millions of dollars of TV ads. After Senator Paul Wellstone died in a 2002 plane crash, Al Franken began talking about running against newly elected Republican Senator Norm Coleman.

Franken grew up in Minnesota and gained fame as one of the original writers and performers on Saturday Night Live.

AL FRANKEN: I'm going to do a terrific show today because I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Franken also wrote several books, most of them about politics and his criticism of high profile conservatives. In late 2003, Franken launched a national radio program, he said, to counter right wing talk shows

AL FRANKEN: Broadcasting from an underground bunker 3,500 below Dick Cheney's bunker, Air America Radio is on the air. I'm Al Franken, and welcome to--

MARK ZDECHLIK: A couple of years later, Franken put together a political action committee, and he began raising more than $1 million for so-called progressive causes and candidates. Franken and his wife, Franni, moved from New York to Minnesota in late 2005, fueling speculation he was planning a Senate campaign. During his final radio show on Valentine's Day 2007, Franken announced plans to move from the sidelines of political commentary to a campaign of his own.

AL FRANKEN: So this is it. I've decided to move on to another challenge.

MARK ZDECHLIK: The election was more than a year and a half away.

AL FRANKEN: I guess-- why don't we do some questions? I'm going to--

MARK ZDECHLIK: Franken was hardly surprised when reporters started asking him just how serious he was about his Senate campaign.

AL FRANKEN: I think it's a fair question, and I think it's one I'm going to get asked a lot. And I think that's why I started 21 months ahead of time. I think anybody who's read my books and has listened to the radio show knows I've been in this debate for a long time. And I think when people hear me, they'll know that I take this very seriously.

MARK ZDECHLIK: It quickly became clear Franken was not only familiar with the issues, but in many areas, could debate them with policy wonk like expertise. Despite having never before run for office, Franken had plenty of experience around people. As a politician, Franken came across as confident out of the gate. He spoke passionately about getting US troops out of Iraq, building a green economy, and addressing the increasing cost of health care.

AL FRANKEN: I want to go to Washington to lead on things like universal health care and an Apollo program for renewable energy. And if I get in a position to do oversight on a war, I will do it.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Republican Senator Norm Coleman initially told reporters he would focus on his job, not political opponents. But behind the scenes, Coleman was quick to use Franken to raise money. In correspondence with supporters, Coleman called himself the Democrats top target in 2008. He used the words vicious, cruel, and cynical to describe Franken.

Although, Coleman largely reserved public comment about Franken in the beginning, the Republican Party of Minnesota began staging news conference after news conference and putting out a seemingly unending stream of press releases ripping Franken. At a news conference the day Franken announced his Senate campaign, Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Ron Carey sarcastically welcomed Franken to Minnesota, bearing a gift basket. Inside, among other items, was a Minnesota map and an anger management book.

The GOP sought to define Franken as an angry, liberal, elitist, carpetbagger who only moved back to Minnesota from New York to run for Senate. The job of attacking Franken often fell upon state party Chairman Carey

RON CAREY: I think it's going to be a very competitive race. I mean, Al Franken, in my mind, is a very flawed candidate.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Carey and other Republicans found themselves oddly positioned. They seemed convinced. Franken, with his colorful and controversial past, was a dream opponent, but they also took his challenge to Coleman very seriously.

RON CAREY: You've got somebody who really doesn't have a Minnesota connection here for the last 30 years, his adult life. And that, I think, is going to be something-- Minnesotans are going to wonder, you know, can this guy really represent my values and understand me?

MARK ZDECHLIK: Unlike Franken, Coleman was well known in Minnesota politics. He'd been a popular mayor in Saint Paul, credited with reviving the city--

NORM COLEMAN: We replaced truck dock facilities and parking decks with new ways to interact with the river.


MARK ZDECHLIK: --and bringing the National Hockey League to it.

NORM COLEMAN: Here they come. Your Minnesota Wild.


MARK ZDECHLIK: Prior to his successful 2002 Senate campaign, Coleman lost the race for Minnesota Governor to Jesse Ventura. He had planned to try another gubernatorial campaign, but the Bush White House convinced him to instead set his sights on the Senate.

Al Franken would not be the only Democrat to seek the DFL Party endorsement to take on Coleman. About a month after Franken launched his campaign, wealthy Attorney Mike Ciresi entered the race. Ciresi had unsuccessfully run for Senate several years earlier. He would campaign against Franken, saying he was more electable.

Peace and social justice advocate Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer and activist Jim Cohen also sought the DFL Party backing to take on Coleman. All of the Democrats agreed not to wage primary campaigns against whoever won.

A few months before the June of 2008 DFL State convention, a conservative blogger revealed that Franken had failed to pay workers compensation premiums for employees of his corporation. New York State officials were fining Franken $25,000. The Franken campaign called it a mistake and eventually blamed Franken's accountant.

A month later, the same blogger discovered Franken owed several thousand dollars in back taxes in California. In late March 2008, a little more than seven months before the election, Senator Coleman officially kicked off his re-election campaign.


NORM COLEMAN: Thank you.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Supporters packed into Coleman's re-election headquarters to send him off.

NORM COLEMAN: I would say with honest humility, I think what I do best is what Minnesota needs most. An experienced, optimistic problem solver who can do more than talk about change.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Echoing his first Senate campaign against Paul Wellstone, Coleman talked about bringing people together to get things done. He ridiculed Franken's Senate bid.

NORM COLEMAN: I am running on my record because, unlike my likely opponent, I actually have one.


What a concept--


--that before you serve in the senate, maybe you should have done something to show that you can actually do the job.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Coleman had a well-earned reputation of being a good friend of the increasingly unpopular Bush Administration. In the spring of 2001, soon after President Bush urged Coleman to run against Paul Wellstone--

NORM COLEMAN: What a great leader he is for Saint Paul.


MARK ZDECHLIK: --Bush was at the River Center, promoting his energy policy and Norm Coleman.

GEORGE BUSH: I think it's important for you all to know that when Norm calls over there to Washington, I'll answer the phone.


NORM COLEMAN: Mr. President--

MARK ZDECHLIK: About a year later, it was Coleman praising Bush who was in downtown Minneapolis, raising money for Coleman's first Senate campaign.

NORM COLEMAN: Mr. President, thank you for the new tone you have set for America. Thank you for leading us to a brighter future by bringing people together to get things done. Thank you for being a beacon of light and hope and pride during America's darkest hour.

MARK ZDECHLIK: The president repeatedly campaigned and raised money for Coleman's initial senate bid. Bush raised money for Coleman's '08 re-election campaign as well, but at least in public, Coleman kept his distance from the president. Coleman made it clear he wanted the race to be about the future. He accused Franken of running against yesterday, and often noted that Bush was not on the ballot.

NORM COLEMAN: I don't think most Minnesotans in the end are really going to be looking back. I think they're looking to the future.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Franken later accused Coleman of wanting it both ways. The Senator was happy to talk about Franken's past, but labeled divisive Franken's comments about Coleman's Senate votes and close ties to the Bush White House.

AL FRANKEN: He's saying, I want to run-- you know, this should be about my record unless I don't want it to be about my record. This should be about the future unless I want it to be about the past. [LAUGHS] I'm not tearing my hair out. I think it's kind of funny-- [LAUGHS] and, you know, kind of pathetic.

MARK ZDECHLIK: But at a time Franken would have liked to have had the focus on Coleman, Franken was playing defense because of his own tax problems. A little more than a month before the DFL State convention, Franken told reporters he owed about $70,000 in back taxes in 17 states.

AL FRANKEN: I think when people see the story and hear the details behind it, they'll know that it was an honest mistake.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Franken said he was not guilty of tax evasion, and that instead he had overpaid taxes in his home states of Minnesota and New York at the expense of paying in other states where he had worked.

AL FRANKEN: Franni and I paid state and federal taxes on every dime of income that we earned. And the only issue is what states we were supposed to pay it in.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Republicans had been accusing Franken of lying about business dealings in relation to the workers' compensation problem in New York and back taxes in California. Republicans received the new tax story like a gift, and they pounced on it. Minnesota GOP Chairman Ron Carey questioned Franken's credibility.

RON CAREY: The real problem is not with the output of the accountant, but with the input of the CEO of the company, Al Franken.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Despite the tax problems and all of the Republican criticism about them, DFL delegates were flocking to Franken. His party building efforts prior to his own campaign paid off. After spending more than $2.5 million, Mike Ciresi dropped out of the endorsement battle. So too did Jim Cohen, leaving only Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer going into the convention that would select a candidate.

As if the tax problems weren't enough, as the convention closed in, Franken found himself under fire over a pornographic essay. He'd written it for Playboy magazine several years before he decided to run for Senate, and it was not just Republicans who were critical. As the state DFL convention got underway, Fourth District DFL Congresswoman Betty McCollum told reporters Franken could turn out to be a liability for Minnesota Democrats.

BETY MCCOLLUM: I think that this has the potential of being a very large distraction.

AL FRANKEN: The things I said and wrote--

MARK ZDECHLIK: Franken used part of the time at the convention podium to apologize for the entertainment past that was threatening his political future.

AL FRANKEN: The things I said and wrote sent a message to some of my friends in this room and the people in this state that they can count on me to be a champion for women and for all the people of Minnesota in this campaign and in the Senate. I'm sorry for that.

Despite Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer's efforts, Franken won the DFL endorsement on the first ballot. The race was now exclusively between Coleman and Franken. Both quickly took to the airwaves in what would be a five-month long TV ad war. It all started with relatively positive messages.

NORM COLEMAN: It's not good enough just to criticize, not good enough to tear something down. The business of serving the people is about making a difference and about doing something. Not just fighting about it, but doing something about. I'm Norm Coleman and I approve this message.

AL FRANKEN: I'm Al Franken. The drug companies, the insurance companies, and the special interests have gotten their way for far too long in Washington. I approve this message because I'm serious about fighting for you.

MARK ZDECHLIK: But the positive tone did not last long.

SPEAKER 3: Al Franken says George Bush has been wrong on Iraq and wrong on the economy. Norm Coleman supports Bush almost 90% of the time. Franken-- tax cuts for the middle class. Coleman-- make Bush's tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% permanent.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Coleman responded with this ad featuring three Joe Six Pack Bowlers contemplating Franken's campaign.

NORM COLEMAN: The guys and I have been talking. Now, we've read all this stuff about Al Franken. You know, not paying taxes, going without insurance for his employees, foul mouthed attacks on anyone he disagrees with, tasteless, sexist jokes, and writing all that juicy porn. And we decided we're--

MARK ZDECHLIK: The campaign's hammered Minnesotans with ads. Minnesota's Senate race was on track to become the most expensive 2008 Senate contest in the nation. Through the end of June, the candidates had raised more than $27 million. Some Democrats were concerned Franken was not the right candidate-- that his past left him unelectable.

There were rumors Mike Ciresi was considering getting back into the race. He did not, nor did former Governor Jesse Ventura. Although, Ventura toyed with the National media for weeks about running against Franken and Coleman as an independent.

Democrat Priscilla Lord Faris did launch a primary campaign against Franken. The daughter of retired Federal Judge Miles Lord said she had nothing against Franken. She just thought Franken couldn't win.

PRISCILLA LORD FARIS: I'm Priscilla Lord Faris. I approve this message and ask for your vote for--

MARK ZDECHLIK: Lord Faris infuriated the DFL establishment when she began running TV commercials saying Franken was unelectable.

PRISCILLA LORD FARIS: No matter how many millions he spends, it is clear that his history of pornography, degrading women and minorities, and his questionable financial transactions will continue to be the focus of blistering Republican attack ads.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Coleman ended up using portions of Lord Faris ads in his own commercials, but Franken easily won the September primary. Franken entered the final stretch of the campaign, sounding many of the same things he initially set out talking about a year and a half earlier. But as summer turned to fall and the economy began collapsing, Franken increasingly took advantage of opportunities to talk about middle class economic concerns. During the five debates, including this one at Breck School, Franken sold himself as being on the side of the middle class, and sought to link Coleman to the rich.

AL FRANKEN: If you think that President Bush has been right 90% of the time, well then, I'm not your guy.


But if you want change, if you want a senator who believes that the middle class is the engine of our prosperity and not the pharmaceutical companies and the special interests and the very wealthy, then I ask for your vote.

MARK ZDECHLIK: As Congress debated giving the Bush Administration hundreds of billions of dollars to begin bailing out Wall Street, Franken took the populist position of opposing the bailout, even though many Democrats, including senators Barack Obama and Amy Klobuchar, were supporting the move. Coleman voted Yes on the bailout. He told reporters calls to his office were running strongly against the plan, but he said he would rather lose the election than see the economy crumble.

Coleman used the debates to contrast his 30-plus year record of public service with Franken's entertainment background. Coleman repeatedly suggested Franken lacked the temperament and civility to work in the US Senate. At a debate in Rochester, which focused on the widening economic turmoil, Coleman reiterated his bringing people together theme.

NORM COLEMAN: As angry as I am, I am an optimist who believes in change by focusing on what unites us, not what divides us as Americans. And I think that's the true difference in this race for Senate. Anger for anger's sake doesn't solve anything. It doesn't solve problems. But anger that brings change by bringing people together for a safer, brighter Minnesota is what we need.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Joining Coleman and Franken for each of the debates was Independence Party Senate candidate Dean Barkley. Barkley talked a lot about reducing the national debt. In the face of the bitter campaign ad war between his much better funded opponents, Barkley sold himself as an alternative to the political status quo. At that forum in Rochester, Barkley both scolded and thanked Coleman and Franken for their negative approach.

DEAN BARKLEY: This has been an embarrassing campaign for me. I think Minnesotans should not have to been put through this, and I'm holding them both accountable on this. They both signed off on these ads. They both signed off on their consultants that say this is going to work. Well, I have to-- I really have to Thank them both for doing it right now because I think I have been the beneficiary of their negative ads.

SPEAKER 1: I'm a kid. I don't pay taxes. Al Franken doesn't pay taxes or workers' comp either. I have an excuse. I'm eight years old

SPEAKER 2: Now, one of the oil guys Norm went fishing with has been convicted of bribery and Norm refuses to return the money.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Some polls showed Barkley had the support of nearly 1 in 5 voters. Minnesota's senate race was by far the most expensive 2008 Senate battle in the nation. Not counting the millions that would go into the recount and lawsuits, Coleman and Franken raised $37 million for their campaign, and they spent a lot of the cash on TV ads.

AL FRANKEN: I'm Al Franken and I approve this message.

SPEAKER 4: This may be the worst thing Norm Coleman's done.

SPEAKER 5: Another Franken ad. Another lie.

SPEAKER 6: Saturday Night Live isn't the only fiction Al Franken writes. The real Coleman record--

SPEAKER 5: Is there anything Norm Coleman and his allies won't say to get reelected? The latest ads are among the most misleading and false.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Less than a month before the election, a Minnesota Public Radio News University of Minnesota poll showed likely voters blamed Coleman for the negative tone by a more than 2 to 1 margin over Franken. Days later, Coleman told reporters in dramatic fashion he was suspending all negative campaign advertising.

NORM COLEMAN: It's a rule of thumb on both sides of the political aisle that negative ads work. I'm willing to put that theory to a test and trust the higher standards of the people of Minnesota.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Coleman said he was making the move in response to the nation's worsening economic conditions.

NORM COLEMAN: Like the vote I took last week on the financial stabilization plan, if this move costs me an election, I can live with that.

MARK ZDECHLIK: The Franken campaign didn't change its ad strategy and called Coleman's move a stunt and a cynical ploy. As election day finally drew near, big-name outsiders were popping in and out of Minnesota to help Franken and Coleman.

BILL CLINTON: Thank you. Hello, Minnesota.


MARK ZDECHLIK: Four days before the election--


MARK ZDECHLIK: --former president Bill Clinton stumped for Franken before a crowd of thousands at the Minneapolis convention center.

BILL CLINTON: He doesn't just have the right rhetoric. I mean, he's giving you a very serious campaign. You know, his opponent made fun of his previous career as a comedian, but I think what's comical is how much more serious and substantive Al Franken's campaign for the senate has been--


--than the campaign of his opponent.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Less than a week before the election came 11th hour allegations in a Texas lawsuit that a Coleman ally had funneled $75,000 to Coleman's wife through her employer. Newspaper reporters confronted Coleman about the allegations as the senator left an event in Saint Cloud.

SPEAKER 7: Senator--

SPEAKER 8: Senator, the allegations. What are the allegations about your wife receiving $75,000?


MARK ZDECHLIK: Coleman would not answer the reporter's questions.

SPEAKER 8: Why won't the senator answer the questions?

SPEAKER 7: Any response?

SPEAKER 8: Can you roll down the window?

SPEAKER 7: Can you down the window. There's a lawsuit--

MARK ZDECHLIK: The DFL party caught the episode on videotape.

NORM COLEMAN: You don't I want to ask questions about it.

SPEAKER 7: Senator, there's a lawsuit alleging that your wife received $75,000--

MARK ZDECHLIK: Just four days before the election, Coleman denied the allegations and he accused Franken and other Democrats of sleazy campaign tactics, saying they were behind the charges.

NORM COLEMAN: Thank you all for being here with me in Moorhead today. In a few days, we will have one of the most important elections of our time, but instead of focusing on the issues, my opponent and his political allies want to divert attention away from this campaign with a false and malicious political attack.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Franken vehemently denied his campaign had anything to do with the lawsuit. Still, Coleman went on TV in his attempt to turn around the story.

NORM COLEMAN: Al Franken's 11th hour attack-- phony accusations filled with lies delivered anonymously to a Minnesota paper before being filed in a Texas court-- the vicious personal attack on my wife. This time, Al Franken has crossed the line.

AL FRANKEN: There's no other way to put it. Norm Coleman is looking in the eye and lying.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Franken, too, took his case to TV viewers.

AL FRANKEN: The lawsuit about funneling money to Norm Coleman alleges serious and potentially criminal conduct. But instead of providing answers, Norm Coleman is trying to deflect blame on me. That is shameful.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Not surprisingly, the allegations played front and center during the final debate of the campaign, hosted by Minnesota Public Radio News two days before the election. Franken accused Coleman of having a political sugar daddy. Coleman continued to accuse Franken of attacking his wife.

NORM COLEMAN: Al, maybe you just don't know that there are lines that you don't cross. Maybe that's your career of not knowing that there's a line to be crossed. Joe, I'm going to say it. It's true. That's-- you know, and that's what-- in the end, this issue comes up because character is an important issue in this race.

AL FRANKEN: This is not about Norm Coleman's wife. This is about money. This is about a sworn affidavit by a Texas Republican CEO that Norm's contributor and friend, who flies him to the Bahamas and to Paris for vacations on his private jet, had a conspiracy to funnel money to Norm Coleman.

MARK ZDECHLIK: There would be no resolution to the 11th hour allegations. The night before the election, Hillary Clinton was in Duluth, campaigning for Franken.

HILLARY CLINTON: I need a partner like Al Franken to make the changes in the Senate that we're looking for.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani--



MARK ZDECHLIK: --was at a popular Saint Paul bar, firing up Coleman's supporters. Giuliani sought to prop up the Coleman campaign's last ditch, Franken's-attacking-my-family theme.

RUDY GIULIANI: Maybe it's because he comes from the world of kind of cynical comedy, but there are certain things that are off limits, and I'm going to tell him what's off limits. Somebody's family is off limits.


MARK ZDECHLIK: The campaign was supposed to end all of the rhetoric. The charges and countercharges, campaign ads, and news conferences were to be a thing of the past. Finally, it was now in the hands of voters. From the outset, Coleman and Franken predicted a close election. No one anticipated how close.


(SINGING) I used to rule the world

Seas would rise when I gave the word

Now, in the morning--

GARY EICHTEN: This is midday on Minnesota Public Radio News. If you have to leave us, this entire documentary will be archived at

MARY SMITH: There you go. Thank you, sir.

SPEAKER 9: Well, thank you.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Minnesotans came up short of breaking the state's voter turnout record on November 4th, 2008. Still, they flocked to polling places in large numbers.

MARY SMITH: There you can vote, too.

SPEAKER 10: Thanks.

MARY SMITH: There you go. Thank you.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Around the state, there were reports of long lines and many first time voters.

MARY SMITH: It's been wonderful. It's been marvelous.

MARK ZDECHLIK: At the Minneapolis Urban League polling place, long time election judge Mary Smith was thrilled to be so busy.

MARY SMITH: We had a line outside that came around, came inside, snaked all the way around back to that back hallway, looped back, came back up this way, and then came into the door.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Turnout did shatter the record at Smith's polling place. But even so, she said there were no problems.

MARY SMITH: I'm so proud of Minnesota because I keep telling people, what happened in Florida could not happen here. Our system is so good.

MARK ZDECHLIK: There's no question. Barack Obama brought a lot of people out to polling places. Immediately after the polls closed, Obama was projected the winner in Minnesota. The fate of the state's senate race was much less clear. It was too close to call on election night, as Minnesota Public Radio's Gary Eichten reported.

GARY EICHTEN: Of course, nobody knows who is actually winning or going to win the US Senate race, setting up what looks to be the distinct possibility of a statewide recount. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie on the line and--

MARK ZDECHLIK: Finally, early Wednesday morning, the Associated Press declared Norm Coleman the winner, but the AP was premature and ended up reversing its call. The initial election tally did show Coleman ahead by more than 700 votes, but Coleman's apparent less than one half of 1% margin of victory fell within the state's mandatory recount law.

Under the rules, no winner could be determined until all of the ballots were recounted. Nonetheless, early Wednesday morning, Coleman declared himself the victor. Coleman also said if he were in Franken's position, he would step aside, thereby eliminating the need for a recount.

NORM COLEMAN: I was hopeful that the healing process for Minnesota would have begun today, that we would-- whoever won the election-- we would move forward. Yesterday, the voters spoke. We prevailed.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Coleman told reporters he had great confidence in the Minnesota election system.

NORM COLEMAN: I have confidence whether I would have won or lost. I've run a lot of races. I've never questioned the way in which our election system works. Again, Mr. Franken can do what he chooses to do.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Franken held no press conference, but issued a statement referencing the mandatory recount and stating his campaign's goal was to ensure that every vote was properly counted. That day after the election, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie laid out the recount procedure. Ritchie told reporters that local election officials would be carefully reviewing each ballot, looking for voter intent and not just checking to see whether ovals were properly marked.

MARK RITCHIE: Normally, you fill in the circle. We all kind of know that. Sometimes, an individual will put a check mark. Some individuals will put an X. Some individuals will circle the name. That's fairly easy to determine the intent of the voter.

MARK ZDECHLIK: People would see voter intent. Machines cannot. The vote numbers were pretty much certain to change. In cases where officials could not determine voter intent, Ritchie explained the ballots would be forwarded to Saint Paul for review by a five-member State Canvassing Board. The board would also review any local election official ballot decision either of the two campaigns objected to.

Minnesota had not gone through a general election statewide recount since the 1962 gubernatorial election. Election laws had changed since then. The state was in uncharted waters. Mark Ritchie.

MARK RITCHIE: We don't know how long it will take.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Prior to the recount, Minnesota's 87 counties formally double checked their election night numbers as a matter of standard procedure. As they did, Coleman's lead over Franken began narrowing. Local election officials in a Northeastern Minnesota precinct revised Franken's total from 406 to 506, citing a clerical error. Elsewhere, uncounted ballots were found in voting machines. All told, revisions from around the state cost Coleman more than 500 votes.

So-called canvassed results rarely match initial election night numbers. Nonetheless, Republicans began suggesting there were improprieties-- that votes for Franken seemed to be coming out of nowhere. Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty was among those questioning what was going on.

TIM PAWLENTY: It's really important to the integrity of the process and people's accepting the results that the process be fair and that it be transparent and it be secure and that it be accurate. And some of the stories that are being circulated, you know, are quite concerning.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Secretary of State Ritchie, a Democrat, bristled at the notion anything regarding the vote counting was dubious. He called casting doubt on the process an unfortunate political strategy.

MARK RITCHIE: Since these changes are part of the canvassing process, since it says unofficial count, since every recount always occurs like this, we assume that campaign professionals know this, and the decision to use words designed to create a cloud over the election is a political strategy.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Coleman unsuccessfully sought a court order to block the inclusion of more than 30 ballots from Minneapolis that had not been counted on election night. With the recount set to begin, both campaigns were amassing money, attorneys, and teams of volunteers for the post-election battle.

Less than a week before ballot boxes were opened, Franken made the first of what would be numerous legal moves surrounding the fate of rejected absentee ballots. Franken's lead recount attorney, Marc Elias, announced a lawsuit seeking the names of voters whose absentee ballots were not counted.

MARC ELIAS: This is not a lawsuit about putting ballots in the count or not in the count. This is about giving us access to the data.

MARK ZDECHLIK: With the names of voters whose absentee ballots were rejected, Elias said he could begin working to determine whether any absentee ballots were wrongly kept out of the count. To make the case that legal ballots were left out, Elias told reporters a dramatic story about a disabled Northern Minnesota woman whose valid ballot was rejected because the signature on her ballot failed to match the one the County had on record.

MARC ELIAS: I believe that all Minnesotans and all levels of government in Minnesota will want to do the right thing. If there are voters like an 84-year-old stroke victim who went out and got her ballot in a nursing home and completed that ballot and got it submitted on time, I think all Minnesotans can agree that her vote ought to be counted.

MARK ZDECHLIK: But the Franken campaign's powerful story was wrong. Hours later, they said they'd made a mistake. The woman's ballot had not been rejected because her signatures failed to match. The Coleman side accused Franken of trying to stuff the ballot box for the recount.

The issue of absentee ballots would be central not only to the recount, but also to the ensuing legal challenges of the election. It would turn out that whoever was running behind in the tally would aggressively seek to open rejected absentee ballots while the front runner would fight the move.

Two weeks after the election, the recount finally began. The same day the Minnesota Supreme Court cleared the way for including wrongly rejected absentee ballots in the recount. The high court ordered the campaigns and election officials to come up with a process for deciding which rejected absentees should be opened and counted. Meanwhile, local election officials began reviewing one by one, and hand-counting nearly 3 million ballots.

SPEAKER 11: So what about if I start--

MARK ZDECHLIK: This day one scene in Minneapolis, Ward One, Precinct 8 is illustrative of what would happen at sites around the state over the next few weeks.

SPEAKER 11: Franken Franken. Coleman.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Election officials counted ballots. Campaign observers watched and sometimes challenged their decisions.

SPEAKER 12: I want to challenge that ballot for the intent. I don't believe the intent of the voter was to vote for Norm Coleman.

SPEAKER 13: This one seems to me that is a Franken vote, so that's where I'm going.

SPEAKER 12: OK. And it goes back in the challenge pot?

SPEAKER 13: We can put it in the challenge pot.

MARK ZDECHLIK: From the outset of the ballot counting, the Franken and Coleman campaigns held news conference after news conference, often to claim each was ahead of the other and that the other was guilty of frivolous ballot challenges.

MARC ELIAS: From our standpoint, we have reason to be optimistic.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Franken attorney Marc Elias.

MARC ELIAS: We are picking up votes across the state. Some places, we are picking them up in big chunks. Other places, we are picking them up one or two at a time.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Attorney Fritz Knaak from the Coleman campaign claimed to be optimistic as well, and questioned why the Franken side was so happy.

FRITZ KNAAK: I have to admit, they're pretty optimistic or seem quickly optimistic, given the fact that We're actually feeling very good today about where we're at.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Again, Franken attorney Marc Elias.

MARC ELIAS: There are clearly some instances-- a significant number of instances, where the Coleman campaign has challenged ballots, which are clearly Franken votes.

FRITZ KNAAK: Well, I've seen some of theirs, and I would certainly--

MARK ZDECHLIK: Fritz Knaak from the Coleman campaign.

FRITZ KNAAK: Well, I'm not going to accuse them. Let's just say that they're pretty much no-brainer Coleman votes.

MARK ZDECHLIK: The campaign's had plenty of money to hire attorneys, spin the story, and staff recount sites around the state. Coleman and Franken raised about $4 million in just the first three weeks after the election. Franken was running a few hundred thousand dollars ahead of Coleman. As the pile of challenged ballots grew, at least some election officials were becoming impatient with all of the second guessing.

JOE MANSKI: Again, not to keep asking a stupid question-- what do you think is challengeable here?

KATE: I think it's beyond--

MARK ZDECHLIK: In Ramsey County, a Franken supporter by the name of Kate found herself up against Ramsey County elections manager Joe Manski.

KATE: It's beyond the distinguishing oval.

JOE MANSKI: Right, but that's not the issue here. What is unclear about who they intended to vote for?

SPEAKER 14: I don't know if you can ask the challenger to explain why the ballot was challenged.

MARK ZDECHLIK: The higher up Franken observer steps in and essentially tells Manski to back off.

SPEAKER 14: And the reason that Kate's given is that the intent is not clear.


SPEAKER 14: And that's reason enough, according to the Secretary of State's rules.

JOE MANSKI: Yeah. I'll tell you what. I'm going to determine that this challenge is also frivolous. And like I said, if you think that I am doing something outside the law, go to court, get an order.


MARK ZDECHLIK: At the height of the recount, the Coleman and Franken campaigns were officially challenging more than 6,600 ballots. When the hand recount finally ended, the State Canvassing Board took on the task of ruling on those challenges.

The State Canvassing Board was comprised of Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, two district court judges, and two Minnesota Supreme Court justices. The board was politically diverse and high powered.

The two members of the Supreme court, Chief Justice Eric Magnuson and Justice G. Barry Anderson, had been appointed by Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty. Independence Party Governor Jesse Ventura appointed Ramsey County Judge Edward Cleary. Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin won election to her position. Board Chair Mark Ritchie was a Democrat.

Board members went through each challenged ballot and decided whether it should be counted as a Coleman or Franken vote or whether to put it in a no-vote pile. Working in a basement hearing room of the state office building across the street from the capitol, the board set out with its job in mid-December-- a month and a half after the race was supposed to have ended.

ERIC MAGNUSON: All in favor of my motion to reject the challenge and designate this ballot as an overvote signify by saying aye.

ALL: Aye

ERIC MAGNUSON: Opposed, same sign. There's--

MARK ZDECHLIK: The Canvassing Board's work was serious. The recount results hinged on the fate of challenged ballots. The highly respected judges, with the assistance of Secretary of State Ritchie and his staff, carefully examined each and every ballot brought before them. Reporters and photographers documented every move of their tedious efforts.


SPEAKER 15: Pequot Lake City. Ballot one.

ERIC MAGNUSON: No. I move to reject the challenge and to designate the ballot for Franken.

SPEAKER 15: Do the parties know where we are?

ERIC MAGNUSON: Red Township.

SPEAKER 16: We don't know where we are.


That's why I was looking for help.


ERIC MAGNUSON: It seems pretty clear to me that that's a vote for Senator Coleman.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice and Canvassing Board member Eric Magnuson.

ERIC MAGNUSON: It could have been more emphatic, but it's more than a stray mark.

MARK ZDECHLIK: In most cases, board members quickly arrived at unanimous ballot decisions. On day one. Canvassing board member Ramsey County District Court Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin scolded the campaigns for unnecessary ballot objections.

KATHLEEN GEARIN: There are some areas that it's just not even questionable that we're spending time looking at, where there is just the tiniest, itty, bitty, little dot in one box, and the other box is totally filled in. And I just-- you know, I'm disappointed. I don't think the campaigns have, in fact, gone through these as seriously as they should have.

MARK ZDECHLIK: The campaigns got the message and continued to pare down their piles of contested ballots. During the recount itself, and more so as the Canvassing Board closely inspected challenged ballots, Minnesotans got a first hand look at some of the bizarre things some voters do with their ballots.

The oddities spanned the gamut from artwork and scribbling to write ins for Mickey Mouse, Quarterback Brett Favre, and many others. Some voters crossed out ovals on their ballots instead of filling them in. Others filled them in only to apparently cross them out and maybe initial them. Others wrote specific directives about what they wanted government to do. And there was the voter who wrote in lizard people. That ballot got national attention, but it did not end up in the count. Again, Judge Gearin and Chief Justice Magnuson.

KATHLEEN GEARIN: If somebody's going to vote and they want to make a kind of a statement of some sort--

ERIC MAGNUSON: They may not get their vote counted.

KATHLEEN GEARIN: --they may not get their vote counted. This is an example of that. And I'm fairly certain they didn't mean it, but the rules are the rules.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Another ballot that garnered a good deal of laughs was marked throughout for Flying Spaghetti Monster, FSM for short. Despite all of the Spaghetti Monster markings, the voter correctly filled in the oval for Franken on the Senate question, and the ballot landed in Franken's pile.

After a slow start, the Canvassing Board speeded up its ballot review work. And as the ballots were scrutinized, Coleman's lead continued to shrink. The Canvassing Board completed ruling on the challenged ballots in just a few days, largely because the campaigns ended up withdrawing so many disputed ballots. The two campaigns withdrew the vast majority of their challenges, Canvassing Board members ended up deliberating over fewer than 1,000 of the more than 6,600 that were originally contested. With the recount of cast ballots complete, the numbers turned to Franken's favor, giving the Democratic challenger a 49 vote lead over Republican Norm Coleman.

On Saturday, January 3rd, the day Coleman's Senate term officially ended, 933 rejected absentee ballots the campaigns agreed should be opened were counted. Franken's lead improved to 225. The following Monday, the recount ended when the state Canvassing Board certified the results.

Franken had more votes, but he did not have an election certificate. Coleman had 10 days to file a lawsuit contesting the election results. Still, Franken promptly summoned reporters to his downtown Minneapolis condominium two months after the election. It was now Franken claiming victory.

AL FRANKEN: After 62 days of careful and painstaking hand-inspection of nearly 3 million ballots, after hours and hours of hard work by election officials and volunteers across the state, I am proud to stand before you as the next Senator from Minnesota.

MARK ZDECHLIK: His wife Franni at his side, Franken talked about wanting to get on with the job of Senator.

AL FRANKEN: I want you all to know that I'm ready to go to Washington and get to work just as soon as possible. And I look forward to joining President-elect Obama and Senator Klobuchar in getting our country moving in the right direction again.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Franken let his several minutes long statement speak for itself.

AL FRANKEN: Thank you. Thank you all.


Thank you very much.

MARK ZDECHLIK: He took no questions, nor did he talk about a highly publicized meeting he had earlier in the week with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The two talked about seeding Franken in the Senate and about his possible committee assignments.

As Franken made plans for a move to Washington, Coleman and his attorneys scrambled to put together a lawsuit. As promised, Norm Coleman quickly took the battle to the next level.


Surrounded by cheering supporters packed into a state office building room, Coleman announced his lawsuit.

NORM COLEMAN: As of today, not every valid vote has been counted, and some have been counted twice. So today, I'm announcing that I have instructed my legal team to file an election contest according to Minnesota law.


MARK ZDECHLIK: Coleman and Franken essentially switched positions from the recount to the lawsuit. Behind in the vote tally, now Coleman-- not Franken-- was calling for the inclusion of thousands more rejected absentee ballots. It was now Coleman alleging that many Minnesotans who voted by absentee ballot were disenfranchised because their ballots were wrongly rejected.

From the time the recount began, there was consensus that whoever ended up losing would likely challenge the result in court. There was a lot at stake, and not just for the candidates, but for the Senate and for the success or failure of President-elect Obama's agenda. Having even just one more Democrat or Republican was a big deal to both parties.

A three-judge panel would hear Coleman's case and Franken's response. Like the Canvassing Board that oversaw the recount, the judicial panel was politically diverse. One judge had been appointed by a republican, another a democrat, and the third by Independence Party Governor Jesse Ventura.

Initially, attorneys told court officials they expected about 15 court days, but the trial dragged on for nearly two months. In his opening statement in late January, Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg made comparisons between Minnesota and Florida. Friedberg argued that, in the Minnesota election, different counties used different standards to decide which absentee ballots to count.

JOE FRIEDBERG: What we are asking you to do is to do the best you can to level the playing field. We're going to ask you to do the best you can, after looking at these rejected ballots, to let in enough so that they are equal and approximately the same standard was used as was used on the ones that have come in. There's about 5,000 of them that we're dealing with.

MARK ZDECHLIK: In his opening statement, Franken Attorney Kevin Hamilton feigned astonishment that Coleman, who argued against adding rejected absentee ballots to the recount, now wanted thousands of them opened and counted.

KEVIN HAMILTON: The contestant's radically inconsistent positions with respect to absentee ballots is stunning. First, contestant's oppose the consideration of any absentee ballots and insisted that all of them, every single one that had been initially rejected, had been properly rejected, and could not be reconsidered. I'll note just in passing that this is the precise opposite of their current position. It's perfect symmetry, perfect inconsistency, and a perfect contradiction.

MARK ZDECHLIK: In addition to wanting thousands of absentee ballots added to the count, Coleman was suing to remove alleged double counted ballots from the recount tally. He also wanted the three judge panel to remove some 132 ballots from the recount that disappeared from a precinct in Minneapolis following the election but that were nonetheless included in the recount using the election night voting machine number.

But the Coleman side spent most of its time before the panel focusing on absentee ballots. Coleman attorneys called witnesses to testify about discrepancies in the treatment of absentee ballots. Ramsey County elections official Joe Manski acknowledged mistakes were made in counting ballots. Manski testified that Saint Paul resident Gerald Anderson's absentee ballot was rejected because of where it was signed, even though it should have been part of the count.

The three judge panel also heard from voters, among them, 75-year-old Gerald Anderson.

GERALD ANDERSON: I couldn't believe this had happened in America--

MARK ZDECHLIK: Anderson was furious. His vote didn't count.

GERALD ANDERSON: --that could take my vote away from me, but they did. They did. And as far as I know, they still haven't given it back to me. Well, I want it back. I am entitled to my vote.


SPEAKER 17: All rise. Ramsey County District Court is now in session. The honorable--

MARK ZDECHLIK: As the trial stretched from days to weeks, Coleman attorneys continued to portray Minnesota as a place where absentee ballots are treated differently from county to county. They argued that, despite uniform rules, a rejected ballot in one place could have been included in the count elsewhere.

Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg questioned Scott County elections supervisor Mary Kay Kes following testimony from an election official in neighboring Carver county. A Carver County election official told the judicial panel, absentee ballots were rejected there if the ballots witness was not a registered voter.

And so you heard the testimony that they check every witness to be sure that they're a registered Minnesota voter. You heard that testimony.


JOE FRIEDBERG: Do you do that in Scott County.

MARY KAY KES: I do not.


MARY KAY KES: It's not required by statute.

JOE FRIEDBERG: OK. Have you ever consulted with anybody about that?

MARY KAY KES: I've asked other counties what they do, thinking, well, am I missing something in the law? And I get the same answer-- no, we don't do that.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Initially, the Coleman side wanted the judges to review nearly all of the 12,000 rejected absentee ballots, but Coleman's attorneys quickly brought that number down to 5,000. In what would become something of a landmark ruling in mid-February, the judges denied Coleman's move to have numerous categories of rejected absentee ballots included in the recount.

That Friday, the 13th Ruling, as it came to be called, effectively shrank Coleman's universe of absentee ballots potentially in play to about 2,200. Five weeks after the trial began, the Coleman side wrapped up its case. Franken attorneys blazed through their case in just eight days. Franken attorneys brought evidence of what they claimed were wrongly rejected absentee ballots cast for Franken. Franken's lawyers argued their 225 vote lead over Coleman would grow larger if those ballots were included in the count.

Three days into presenting his side of the case, Franken attorney Marc Elias called on the three judge panel to dismiss Coleman's lawsuit. Elias claimed Coleman had nowhere near enough votes to surpass Franken.

MARC ELIAS: They have called more than 50 witnesses. They have introduced hundreds and hundreds of documents. Just look at the binders. Thousands of pages. And yet, despite all of those witnesses and all of that evidence, they rested their case having proved little more than a handful of absentee ballots that were improperly rejected.

MARK ZDECHLIK: The Franken side conceded Coleman had unearthed a grand total of six absentee ballots that were lawfully cast but rejected from the count. Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg didn't even attempt to dispute the claim the Coleman side was unable to prove everything the three-judge panel was requiring.

Friedberg told the judges their standard for counting rejected absentee ballots was wrong. He insisted Coleman needed to prove only that voters substantially complied with the law.

JOE FRIEDBERG: Where is it written that we must prove compliance with that statute to a certainty? That's what you have apparently demanded of us. With all due respect, that holding was created out of whole cloth, and it just growed like Topsy.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Friedberg also accused the judges of changing the rules about which ballots should be counted, claiming that some ballots counted by the State Canvassing Board were illegal. At the end of March, the judicial panel ordered the delivery of about 400 rejected absentee ballots to the Secretary of State's office for review to determine whether any had been wrongly rejected. About a week later, Secretary of State staffers opened and counted 351 of those ballots in open court before the panel.

SPEAKER 18: Coleman. Franken.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Although it was Coleman who wanted the additional ballots in the count, when they were opened and counted, it was Franken's lead that increased-- now to 312 votes. Outside the courtroom, Franken attorney Marc Elias complimented Coleman's legal team, but not their case.

MARC ELIAS: The fact that you have very good lawyers, as you saw in this trial, can't change the underlying facts. And the underlying facts are that more Minnesotans voted for Al Franken than voted for Norm Coleman.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Coleman lawyer Ben Ginsberg labeled the new count inconsequential, insisting many more ballots should have been opened and counted. Ginsberg said Coleman would look to the Minnesota Supreme Court to bring at least another 4,000 ballots into the count. Ginsberg reiterated the Coleman side argument that absentee ballots that were rejected on election day in some places but that would have been included in other areas should be opened and counted.

BEN GINSBERG: Well, in our best case scenario, the Minnesota Supreme Court would tell the trial court to open up ballots consistent with the standards in place on election day.

MARK ZDECHLIK: On April 13th, Norm Coleman lost his election contest lawsuit. The three-judge panel ruled Al Franken received more votes in the election than Coleman. The judges wrote, quote, "the overwhelming weight of evidence indicates that the November 4th, 2008 election was conducted fairly, impartially, and accurately."

Still, Coleman was not done. Coleman promptly promised to appeal the ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court. Franken appeared once again outside his downtown Minneapolis home.

AL FRANKEN: Thanks for coming, everybody. Franni and I couldn't be happier.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Franken called on Coleman to allow him to get to work as the state's new Senator.

AL FRANKEN: Look, we're starting to have health care policy that's going to be written in the US Senate, and I want to be there for that. And Minnesotans need two senators there for that. And so I want to get going as soon as possible because we're facing tremendous problems in this country-- an unprecedented array of problems.

MARK ZDECHLIK: A week later, Coleman filed his appeal.


SPEAKER 19: All rise for the Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota.

MARK ZDECHLIK: On June 1st, nearly seven months to the day after the election, the Minnesota Supreme Court convened to hear Coleman's appeal.

ALAN PAGE: Please be seated.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg argued once again that if one county used a loose standard to count absentee ballots, all counties should be required to use the same lower standard.

JOE FRIEDBERG: We are trying to get them to be used as a control for what the proper evaluation of a ballot is, and that's only fair.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Justice Alan Page took issue with Friedberg's only fair argument.

ALAN PAGE: But that's a little bit of the-- the cars in front of me were speeding and they got away. Why do I get the speeding ticket?

MARK ZDECHLIK: Friedberg defended his argument, saying the ballots that were accepted election night that didn't perfectly meet the standards were not illegal ballots.

JOE FRIEDBERG: Well, they're not speeding, your honor. Those ballots that got in substantially comply with the law, and that's classic Minnesota law. The election officials in the metropolitan counties got it right. The election officials in the smaller counties got it wrong and the trial court got it wrong. This is not a strict compliance state. It's a substantial compliance state.

MARK ZDECHLIK: Asked whether he thought there had been any fraud in Minnesota's 2008 Senate election, Friedberg answered unequivocally, no. Franken attorney Marc Elias told Minnesota's highest court, Coleman failed to prove there were any systematic problems with the election. Elias, however, did concede there were a few minor variations. Justice Paul Anderson.

PAUL ANDERSON: Counsel, were any illegally cast absentee ballots counted and included in the vote total?

NORM COLEMAN: I will answer that two ways. One is to say that there is nothing in the record identifying a specific ballot that was in the vote totals. I think it is fair to say that in every election, in every state, in every county, in every precinct, there is some ballot somewhere where a felon voted and it wasn't picked up on, where someone wasn't registered and skirted around the table, where some other irregularity took place and it wasn't caught, but that has never been the standard in the state or anywhere.

PAUL ANDERSON: We shall take this matter under advisement, and an opinion will be forthcoming. We are adjourned.


MARK ZDECHLIK: The opinion that many speculated would come within days took weeks. Finally, on the last day of June, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the three-judge panel ruling that Al Franken received 312 more votes in Minnesota's 2008 Senate election than Norm Coleman. Within hours, Coleman publicly ended his legal fight and congratulated Franken. The more than two year battle for the Senate seat that cost upwards of $50 million ended without the divisiveness and drama of the long campaign, recount, and legal battle.


SPEAKER 20: This program was written and produced by Marc Zdechlik. It was edited by Mike Mulcahy. Betsy Cole provided research.

GARY EICHTEN: And that does it for our midday program today. Gary Eichten here, by the way. There's much, much more on this Senate race. You can find much, much more information on our website,

35 years ago, Minnesota Public Radio listeners heard the first ever broadcast of a Prairie Home Companion. This Saturday afternoon, Garrison Keillor is observing that milestone with a free live broadcast from Avon, Minnesota, just West of Saint Cloud. Congratulations from all of us at Minnesota Public Radio News. And a good idea, perhaps, to go out to the program this Saturday, up in Avon, on the Lake Wobegon Trail. Should be a great, great show.

Tomorrow, we think we have pretty good midday program coming up, and we hope you'll be able to join us for that. Juan Williams will be joining us first hour to talk about the 45th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, and we'll talk American history along the way.

Over the noon hour. The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, at Aspen. All of that tomorrow here on midday. Thanks for tuning in today.

SPEAKER 21: Programming on Minnesota Public Radio is supported in part by our underwriters. We thank our listeners and members for supporting them throughout the year. More information online at


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