AP declares Coleman victory; Senate race headed for recount

Republican Norm Coleman has won a second term in the U.S. Senate, surviving a stiff challenge from former comedian Al Franken, The Associated Press has reported.

Republican Norm Coleman has won a second term in the U.S. Senate, surviving a stiff challenge from former comedian Al Franken, The Associated Press has reported.

Coleman squeaked past Franken by the narrowest of margins: a few hundred votes with nearly 2.9 million cast, the AP reported. The margin appeared certain to trigger an automatic recount.

Coleman for Senate Campaign Manager Cullen Sheehan released a statement early Wednesday morning regarding Coleman's re-election.

"The Senator is thrilled and humbled to be given the opportunity to serve the people of Minnesota for another six years," the release stated. "Today is a time for us to come together as a state and a nation. There is much work to be done, and the Senator is ready to roll-up his sleeves and bring people together to get it done."

Earlier Wednesday, Coleman and Franken were separated by just 1,015 votes.


With 4,121 of 4,130 precincts counted, Coleman had garnered exactly 42 percent of the vote to take the lead. Franken collected 41.96 percent while Independent Party challenger Dean Barkley received 15.16 percent in unofficial returns.

Coleman and Franken traded leads in preliminary returns for a six-year term that pays $169,300 annually.

The returns showed Coleman with 1,210,247 votes, Franken with 1,209,124 and Barkley with 436,819.

Around 11:30 p.m., Coleman and Franken told their supporters to keep their hopes up for another several hours.

"Give the folks a few more hours to finish counting, then we'll hope to give you six years of standing up for what's right," Franken told supporters in St. Paul.

Franken said Minnesota sent a powerful message by helping elect Barack Obama president.

"And tonight I'm humbled and I'm grateful and I can't wait to help President-elect Barack Obama get this country back on its feet again," Franken said before midnight.

Coleman was optimistic.


"There is more counting to be done," Coleman told Republicans gathered in Bloomington. "Save your energy. Keep being hopeful. I'm feeling very good right now."

Early Wednesday, political scientists began talking about the possibility of a recount in the Senate race. State law requires a mandatory recount if a race ends within 0.5 percentage point.

Minnesotans who faced an onslaught of negative campaign advertising in recent weeks flocked to the polls to settle Minnesota's most high-profile contest - and one of the most-watched in the country.

Barkley, who had trailed significantly in recent polls, hoped for an upset.

Coleman and Franken, who had spent an estimated $40 million between them, entered Election Day trading small leads in independent polls. Neither could establish an edge, leaving them in a virtual tie in the closing days of a long campaign.

The race, rife with nasty campaign advertisements from both candidates as well as outside groups, got increasingly ugly in the closing weeks. Coleman's campaign said in mid-October it was ending its negative ads, and later filed a campaign complaint alleging Franken included false statements about the senator in two television advertisements.

Forum Communications State Capitol reporters Scott Wente and Don Davis and freelance writer July Bartkey contributed to this story

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