An Emotional Franken Thanks His Supporters, His Family — And Recognizes Wellstone’s Legacy

Sen.-elect Al Franken (D-MN) just held a victory rally at the Minnesota state Capitol in St. Paul, celebrating his hard-fought and heavily-litigated victory that finally came true yesterday. In some of the most heartfelt terms possible, he thanked his staff, all of his supporters and volunteers, and especially his family — and paid tribute to a departed friend, the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.

“Well, it was close,” he began his remarks, to the laughter of the crowd, alluding to his final certified victory margin of 312 votes out of about 2.9 million. “But we won.” And the crowd applauded.

“And when you win an election by this close a margin, you know that not one bit of effort went to waste,” he later added. “And so I want to thank every single person who knocked on a door, marched in a parade, made a phone call, gave money, gave time, gave energy, gave of themselves to this effort. Thank all of you, thank you, thank you, thank you.”

The longer his speech went on, Franken became more emotional, clearly touched in a very deep way at the amazing victory he has won, and all the effort that other people put into it on his behalf.“I want to thank our beautiful kids, Joe and Thomasin, who helped out so much and put up with even more during this long campaign. But most of all, most of all, I want to thank their mom,” he said. “You know, this September 19th will be the 40th anniversary that Franni and I met at a freshman college mixer. We’ve been partners ever since, and when we decided to make this effort, I called our friends and said, ‘Franni and I are running for the Senate, and if we win, I get to be the Senator.’ Well honey, I get to be the Senator. (They hug, as the audience cheers.) I get to be the Senator because of you. This was a historically close race, but it wouldn’t have been if it weren’t for Franni. I would have lost, by kind of a lot.”

He reminded all of his volunteers: “You know just how many hours Franni worked, and just how many voters gave me a second chance after meeting her.” A few people in the crowd then identified themselves in that category.

“You know, during these many months, people would come up to us and say, ‘Are you okay? How you doing. This must be horrible to go through.’ And you know what, it wasn’t. because Franni and I know that we’re just lucky. We’re lucky,” he said — and as he continued, he began to choke up and apparently held back tears. “And what we’ve been through is just nothing, especially compared to what so many Minnesotans and so many Minnesota families have been going through during this same period. And we know that when you win an election, what you really win is a chance — a chance to go to work for the working families in Minnesota. A chance to tackle the tough challenges.”

And when he pledged to go to Washington and work with Democrats, Republicans and independents to help people, he then paid tribute to the late Sen. Paul Wellstone — his old friend whose death in a 2002 plane crash paved the way for Franken’s future Republican rival Norm Coleman to be elected, and for Franken himself to get serious about politics and ultimately run to win Paul’s seat back:

“That is what Paul Wellstone said politics is about. Paul said that politics is about improving folks’ lives. And I can’t stand here today, and not say a little bit about my friend Paul. It is of course technically true that this was Paul’s U.S. Senate seat, but I don’t think Paul saw it that way. This seat belongs to the people of Minnesota — and so did Sen. Wellstone, and so will I.

“Paul and Sheila left us too soon. But they left us with legacies that will endure for generations. The Mental Health Parity Act that bears his name is an example of what can happen when politicians set aside partisanship and set aside politics.

“Here in Minnesota, Paul’s legacy endures in the hard work and unyielding spirit of many men and women, some young and some just young at heart, who carry on his vision of political organizing and his vision of a world where the common good triumphs over special interests. I think it’s safe to say that without those people who share Paul’s dream, who believe that the future does belong to those who are passionate and work hard, who carry Paul and Sheila’s spirit with them everyday as they work hard for change, this campaign would not have succeeded. And I know for a fact that without you, we in Washington cannot succeed.”

“I wish I could take you all, all of you, to Washington with me, to fight alongside me,” he later added. “But we cost it out. And it’s just too much.” After the audience laughed at his joke, he urged them to keep working in Minnesota for change, for their causes and candidates, and to hold their leaders accountable — himself included. He thanked everyone again, several times. And then it was over.

(Special thanks to The Uptake, for streaming the rally.)