Franken tops challenger to stay in Senate

The ex-comedian will serve a second term after defeating Republican Mike McFadden.

The crowd cheers as Sen. Al Franken speaks on stage with supporters on Tuesday evening at the DFL election night party at the Hilton in downtown Minneapolis.

Bridget Bennett

The crowd cheers as Sen. Al Franken speaks on stage with supporters on Tuesday evening at the DFL election night party at the Hilton in downtown Minneapolis.

John Thomas

Democratic incumbent Sen. Al Franken surpassed Republican challenger Mike McFadden Tuesday, after a campaign that tested the incumbent’s White House policies and, at times, scrutinized his first term.

With Franken’s victory, which came with more than 11 percentage points more than his opponent, he heads to a U.S. Congress where the Republican Party controls both the House of Representatives and the Senate for the first time in years.

In his acceptance speech Tuesday, Franken thanked students — saying they work many hours of the week, while still going to school full time and want to give back to their community — while also pointing to the work of business owners, farmers and other Minnesotans.

“I couldn’t be more proud to be your senator,” Franken said in the speech at the Hilton in downtown Minneapolis. “I brag on Minnesota all the time. Thank you for taking a chance on me six years ago, and thank you for giving me a chance to keep working for you in Washington.”

Both senate candidates made campaign stops on the University of Minnesota’s campus before Election Day, hoping to sway the student population that historically has a low voter turnout.

“Franken’s done an extraordinary job these last six years,” said City Councilman Jacob Frey, who represents the University and surrounding areas. “He’s stood up for progressive values.”

Franken, sporting a maroon Gopher windbreaker, greeted students Tuesday afternoon outside Coffman Union, and McFadden rallied support at Voterpalooza on Northrop Plaza in September.

“This has just begun,” McFadden said at the GOP’s election night party at Loew’s Minneapolis hotel. “The Republican resurgence in this state. … We have an opportunity to change this state from a purple state to a red state.”

While campaigning, McFadden focused largely on Franken’s relationship with President Barack Obama, pointing out that the senator voted in line with the president’s policies almost all of the time.

“Tying democratic incumbents to a relatively unpopular president is a strategic move by republican candidates,” said Kathryn Pearson, a political science associate professor at the University and an expert on national politics.

McFadden, like many Republican challengers across the nation this election, criticized Franken for his support of the Affordable Care Act.

In addition to supporting the act, Franken’s first term has been characterized as one that focused on the middle-class, students and other economically precarious demographics.

“[Franken]’s been able to use his accomplishments in the Senate to craft a campaign message that’s been fairly effective,” Pearson said.

She said Franken’s approach to the Affordable Care Act during the election was unlike many of his peers’. His strategy has been to embrace it, and talk about the positives, she said.

University students involved in the school’s chapters of the College Democrats and College Republicans contributed to both candidates’ campaigns.

“The University of Minnesota College Democrats have played a large role helping empower students and engaging them in the political process,” Franken’s campaign press secretary Ryan Furlong said in a statement.

Julia Carpenter, a global studies and art senior, voted for Franken on Tuesday. She said his position on women’s rights was the main reason she voted for the incumbent.

“Voting for my rights as a woman, and making sure that the people who are elected are actually working towards that” is very important, she said.