Franken will run for U.S. Senate in Minnesota

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Comedian Al Franken has decided to run for U.S. Senate in Minnesota in 2008, a senior Democratic official from Minnesota said Wednesday.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Comedian Al Franken has decided to run for U.S. Senate in Minnesota in 2008, a senior Democratic official from Minnesota said Wednesday.

Franken told the official, who did not want to be identified because Franken has not made an announcement, in a recent conversation that he had decided to run. "He told me he was running," said the official.

Andy Barr, the political director of Franken's Midwest Values Political Action Committee, declined to comment on Franken's political plans.

The news was not unexpected. Franken has been calling members of the Minnesota congressional delegation to get their input on a run, and he announced this week that he would be leaving his show on Air America Radio on Feb. 14. He told listeners he would be making a decision on a race soon.

In a swiftly issued statement, Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Ron Carey said he was confident Minnesotans "will reject Franken's divisive, scorched earth attacks."


Should he win the Democratic primary in Minnesota, Franken would take on Republican Norm Coleman, a first-term senator who is among the Democrats' top targets. Coleman declined to comment Wednesday.

Franken, 55, was born in New York City, like Coleman, but grew up in St. Louis Park, a suburb of Minneapolis. He made his fame as a star and writer on "Saturday Night Live." He's also the author of several books, including, "Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look At the Right."

His PAC raised nearly $1 million last year. Although Franken can't use that money for his Senate campaign, it shows he shouldn't have a problem raising money.

Coleman reported about $1.7 million in his bank account as of Dec. 31.

Franken faces major challenges, said Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota. Besides needing to establish himself as a "serious" candidate, Franken also has staked out left-wing policies that make it questionable whether he can win independent voters, Jacobs said.

"If you talk to Republicans, they're hoping for a Franken campaign," Jacobs said. "They think they can pose some pretty smart choices that Norm Coleman can answer."

Jacobs said he expected Franken to have plenty of competition from other Democrats who see Coleman as vulnerable in 2008.

Potential Democratic candidates include state Rep. Joe Atkins of Inver Grove Heights, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark of St. Cloud and Sen. Mee Moua of St. Paul.


The state Democratic Party declined to comment.

On his radio show Monday, Franken said of a race, "If I'm ready to make a decision before the show ends on the 14th, I'll make sure you, my listeners, are the first to know -- after Frannie" (his wife).

Franken was unavailable for comment, but Barr, his PAC's political director, said that Franken has made over 50 public appearances over the past year in Minnesota. Franken is concerned about the growing gap between the rich and poor, and the country's standing in the world, Barr said.

"He really knows a lot and cares about issues," Barr said. "He talks about early childhood education and mental health parity. His interest is really in bread and butter issues. It might surprise some critics."

Asked if it would be fair to call Franken a liberal, Barr responded, "He has said publicly that liberal is not a dirty word."

The late Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., was an inspiration to Franken, Barr said.

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