Democrat Al Franken intends to emulate former Sen. Hillary Clinton once he reaches the U.S. Senate, winning respect by downplaying his celebrity and letting his hard work do his talking for him.
First, however, Franken must overcome former Sen. Norm Coleman's appeal to the state Supreme Court. The Republican is asking that about 4,000 additional ballots be counted in the election.
Not that Franken considers the Coleman appeal to be much more than a delaying tactic. He's already hiring office staff and says it's only a matter of time before he's named Minnesota's next U.S. senator. Once ensconced, Franken says he will follow Hillary's path to legislative legitimacy.
"Hillary came in to a certain amount of skepticism," Franken recently told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "They wondered 'Is she going to be a prima donna? Use her celebrity? Is she going to be grabbing the microphone all the time?' What she did was put her head down and work."
The stakes in the outcome of the Franken-Coleman contest are even higher now that Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter has crossed the aisle to join Democrats. Franken would become Democrats' 60th U.S. Senator if his election is certified, handing Democrats the coveted 60-vote majority needed to ward off any attempt at a filibuster.
Franken says he's been consulting Hillary Clinton on how best to operate effectively in the Senate.
"I'm someone who has been very outspoken," Franken tells the Star-Tribune. "But when I go in there, I think I'll be most for Minnesota if I let my colleagues know that I respect them and the institution, and will put my head down and do the work."
Although he says his work do his talking for him, it's a safe bet Franken's razor-sharp tongue will still make occasional guest appearances. Asked if he'll still speak his mind freely – assuming he wins the election – Franken replied "absolutely."
To help him wrest free the political prize he's spent $24 million and two years pursuing, Franken's attorneys face a Monday deadline for filing his response to Coleman, who is asking the state Supreme Court to toss out a prior ruling that Franken won by 312 votes. But for now, Franken is waiting and planning for what he will do if finally elected.
"I think my actions will speak louder than my words," he says.
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