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After 8 months in election limbo, it's ... SENATOR FRANKEN

Franni and Al Franken were all smiles Tuesday afternoon following a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that made him the next U.S. senator. They talked to reporters in front of their Minneapolis townhouse. (Don Davis / State Capitol Bureau)

Nearly 3 million Minnesotans voted for a U.S. Senate candidate eight months ago, but in the end only five votes counted, those of state Supreme Court justices who Tuesday decided Al Franken will be the state's second sitting U.S. senator.

The high court's unanimous decision convinced Norm Coleman to end his re-election battle, sending Franken to Washington to give Democrats 60 Senate votes, the most dominate voting bloc in 30 years.

Tuesday's court ruling also ended Minnesota's longest election contest.

"Franni and I are so thrilled that we can finally celebrate this victory," Franken said, his wife at his side in front of their downtown Minneapolis townhouse.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie signed Franken's election certificate Tuesday night. He could be sworn in early next week, although that has yet to be decided.

Franken is to attend a mid-day state Capitol victory rally today, then head to the Iron Range for holiday parades this weekend before flying to Washington early next week.

The election was watched across the country because with Franken's win, Democrats and their allies have 60 votes in the Senate. That allows Democrats to break Republican filibusters, giving them a better chance to pass their bills, as well as those of Democratic President Barack Obama.

Coleman said he fought in court because he thought he won the Nov. 4 election, but on Tuesday he accepted the court's decision.

In a call Coleman made to Franken, the two agreed "it is time to bring this state together," Franken said.

"I congratulate Al Franken and his victory in this election," Coleman said.

Coleman would not comment about his future, but said that information will come soon enough.

"I don't reach this point with any big regrets," said Coleman, who served one term in the Senate after working in the state attorney general's office and being St. Paul mayor. "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."

Franken began his campaign in early 2007, a campaign that landed him in hot water with some in his party when they learned about comments many thought were offensive to women. But he survived, only to fight Republican Coleman in one of the country's fiercest political battles.

It also was expensive, probably topping $50 million for the campaign and court expenses between the two candidates.

Coleman led the morning after Election Day, but by a slim enough margin to force an automatic recount. As election officials checked their work, Franken gained a slim lead.

The lead held when a three-judge panel ruled against Coleman's challenge in April, a decision the Supreme Court affirmed Tuesday.

"I think what you had was 12 judges look at this through the canvassing process, through the recount and throughout the trial, and all agreeing unanimously that I won more votes than anybody else in the election," Franken said.

He said he will serve on committees dealing with health, education, labor, pensions, courts, Indian affairs and aging.

Much of Franken's time in recent months has been spent getting ready to be senator, both at home and in Washington.

"I can hit the ground, if not running, trotting," he joked.