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Franken joins Klobuchar as state team

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news Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar's casework for Minnesotans doubled in recent months as the state's lone senator. That will change Tuesday.

Sen.-elect Al Franken, who won a Minnesota Supreme Court decision last week certifying him as the winner of November's election with Norm Coleman, will be sworn into office Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol.

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After the court ruling, Republican Coleman, who held the post for six years, conceded to Democrat Franken, ending speculation that he would take the case to federal courts.

"I am very impressed by how Norm handled this," Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., said in an interview last week while in Bemidji. "It really made the healing easier the way he handled it, saying the court has spoken and we need to move forward. He said Al Franken is the next senator very definitively."

And Franken has also been very gracious, she said, "and I think that makes a very big difference. He will hit the ground running; he's had eight months to get ready for this. Most senators only have two."

Franken has already assembled a staff, naming a chief of staff, Drew Littman, in Washington and a Minnesota state director, Alana Petersen, who most recently worked for U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, DFL-8th District.

Saturday found Franken with Klobuchar in four Iron Range Independence Day parades.

Franken will serve on the Senate's committee that is working on health care reform and on the judicial panel vetting Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotormayor.

Minnesota will lose a voice in agriculture, however, as both Coleman and Klobuchar sat on the Senate Agriculture Committee. Klobuchar will remain there.

Franken, however, will have a seat on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, a seat formerly held by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.

"That will be very big, and we haven't had a Minnesotan on it," Klobuchar said. "For the Bemidji area, to have someone doing Indian issues and someone doing the ag and forestry issues -- we'll both be on those committees, which are key."

Klobuchar said once Franken is set up, he will begin taking constituent casework. Her staff will continue working with those who have until now contacted her office on everything from veterans benefits to foreign adoption help, so it will still take some time to bring casework in line.

"They're ready for a little break for the Fourth of July," she said of her staff. "We won't be giving him (Franken) our cases because people want follow up with us. But hopefully he'll start picking up cases so we won't have them all ourselves."

The scenario hasn't happened since 1975 in New Hampshire, she said. "That guy only had 900,000 constituents, and I have 5.2 million."

Speaking to a Bemidji group on tourism, Klobuchar said that "we're ready for a new senator and a new era. ... I think the way they both handled this after a very long trial that lasted longer than the Lindbergh baby kidnapping trial , the Trial of the Century, will do a lot to heal the pain of this election and moving forward."

Asked months ago when she thought the court case would be settled, she quipped Minnesota would have a second senator by the time the "corn got knee-high on the Fourth of July." She came close to that prediction.

"They're showing it on TV, now they're saying things like since you're such a good predictor, will the health care bill pass?" Klobuchar said. "I've got my limits on my predictions."

bswenson@bemidjipioneer.com

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