Franken says he’s ready to join Senate

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) âÄî Al Franken said Friday he’s frustrated but not bitter that a lawsuit by Norm Coleman is keeping him out of the U.S. Senate. “I admit to being frustrated at times,” Franken said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But it’s a little out of my control. What is in my control is to prepare so that when I get to the Senate, I’m ready to go on day one.” Democrat Franken, the former “Saturday Night Live” performer and liberal satirist, left little doubt that he considers himself the winner of Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race. A recount ended with him leading Republican Coleman by 225 votes, but Coleman is challenging that in a lawsuit. Coleman has sat through much of the trial in person, but Franken has yet to show up. He said attending the trial wouldn’t be “the most productive use of my time” âÄî but admitted he sometimes tunes in to a live Webcast of the proceedings. In St. Paul, testimony continued Friday in the lawsuit. Coleman’s team has been questioning county election officials over absentee ballots âÄî one by one âÄî that may have been improperly rejected, hoping to convince a panel of judges to allow them into the count. Anoka County elections manager Rachel Smith testified a day earlier that workers there had come up with some additional ballots that may need to be added to the count âÄî as many as 11. Smith said workers were responding to a Franken discovery request when they found three overseas military ballots âÄî all for Coleman âÄî that were counted on Election Day but not during the recount. Some overlooked absentee ballots were discovered after Smith ordered a more comprehensive review. Ben Ginsberg, a Coleman lawyer, also told reporters Friday that Washington County found two uncounted ballots in a storage area. He had no other details. Franken’s attorneys have asked the state Supreme Court to give him a temporary certificate to join the Senate while the trial plays out, after Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie refused that request. If that effort fails, there’s been speculation the Senate’s Democratic majority might try to seat Franken anyway if Coleman’s trial drags on for weeks or months. But Franken gave no indication he would push for a step like that. “That is so out of my control that I really don’t give it much thought,” he said. Franken said he gets regular briefings from Democratic members of Congress and staff. He said he’s particularly worried about the rapid acceleration of job losses, and said he would be a vote for President Obama’s stimulus package. But he said he’d push for measures to make sure the money is spent wisely. Asked about Coleman’s recent decision to take a temporary consulting gig with the Republican Jewish Coalition while the trial plays out, Franken would only say: “I think it may be a more permanent job.” A few weeks ago, Coleman said in an AP interview that he believed any Democratic candidate other than Franken probably would have beat him outright on Election Day. On Friday, Franken declined to respond to the remark. “I didn’t know what the purpose of him saying that was, and I don’t know what purpose it would serve for me to respond to it,” Franken said. He said he’s happy with the race he ran, and that he was able to overcome a barrage of criticism from Republicans and even some fellow Democrats over some of the tasteless jokes and published material from his long career as a comedian and writer. Franken said he’s no longer much interested in being viewed as a comic. “This is a deadly serious job, it really is,” he said. Asked how he might satirize the election limbo he’s now trapped in, Franken said: “There’s nothing funny about what’s going on now.” ___ Associated Press writer Chris Williams contributed to this story from St. Paul.