By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 1, 2009 ( – The Minnesota State Supreme Court on Tuesday declared Democrat Al Franken the winner of Minnesota's U.S. Senate seat, delivering the last seat Senate Democrats needed to secure a filibuster-proof majority.

Republican incumbent Norm Coleman conceded the hard-fought race after the state Supreme Court rejected his five arguments that the recount of the November 4 vote had been unfair.  Out of 2.4 million ballots cast, the final recount showed Franken defeated Coleman by 312 votes.  In the initial count, Coleman had 206 more votes than Franken, but the narrow margin sparked an automatic recount.

“The Supreme Court has made its decision and I will abide by the results,” Coleman told reporters yesterday.  “In these tough times we all need to focus on the future, and the future is that we have a new United States senator.”  In a victory speech outside his home in St. Paul, Senator-elect Franken said he was humbled by the closeness of the election and the “enormity of the responsibility” of his new post.

Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty said he would sign the election certificate immediately.  Franken, a liberal radio personality, author, and former Saturday Night Live regular, will likely take his seat in the Senate next week. 

Sen. Arlen Specter's recent switch from Republican to Democrat affiliation in late April had boosted the Democrats to being one seat away from the 60-seat supermajority capable of keeping Republicans from attempting to block legislation.  The 60-vote tally includes two Independents, Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who regularly vote with the Democrat party.

While few were confident that Franken's win would amount to a surefire rubber-stamp Congress for President Obama's legislation, many took the news as a pivotal shift in the Senate power structure.

“With 60 votes now in the Senate, there's no excuse for Democrats not passing our energy (and climate) bill,” a senior House Democratic aide told FOX News.

The Huffington Post's Dan Sweeney noted that previously “it was up to the Democrats to keep their people in line and, at the same time, woo a moderate Republican (read: the women from Maine) into joining the Democratic ranks on a cloture vote,” referring to left-leaning Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snow.

“But that is no longer the case,” wrote Sweeney. “Now, it is the Republicans who must keep their people in line and convince a Democrat to come to the other side.

“That may seem like a small shift, but it has could have big implications.”

See related coverage:

Pro-Abort Sen. Specter Announces Switch to Democratic Party


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