MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It seems Minnesota can’t avoid big political controversy. Right now, the state government is shut down.
And just two years ago, we were divided by the seemingly never-ending Al Franken/Norm Coleman senate race. The State Supreme Court sided with the Democrat Franken, and Thursday marks his second year in office.
As he traveled between St. Paul and Minneapolis last month, Franken snuck in a joke about the most controversial election in Minnesota history.
“July 7 is my anniversary. I don’t know if you recall but we had kind of a close election,” Franken joked.
It wasn’t just the election that was unusual, it was his path to the office. When it comes to the show business background that made him famous, and his new career, the Senator seems at times uncomfortable.
When asked about the misconception people had about him, he said, “I don’t know that there still are.”
Then, he took three minutes to complete his answer.
“When I was first doing this people in Minnesota were skeptical of people in show business, and well, they should be,” said Franken. “I think if they meet Franni that is the No. 1 validator of me.”
Franken references his wife of 35 years constantly. He said she came from an impoverished background. Her father died when she was very young, leaving her mother 29 years old and widowed with five children.
It’s her story in part, he said, that motivates him to seek prosperity for the middle class.
“All of the kids made it, and they made it because of social security survivor benefits. They made it because of Pell grants and the G.I. bill. Probably my biggest goal is to rebuild the middle class.”
In the Senate, Franken has been a solid supporter of President Barack Obama. Franken authored key parts of the health care reform bill, including a measure that regulates the amount of money insurance companies can pocket from health care premiums.
“This has already saved people money, and in some cases driven down the cost of insurance,” Franken said.
His path to Washington D.C. has been distinct for his advocacy of issues surrounding the Internet and privacy. One of his signature concerns is net neutrality.
“It sounds esoteric but it actually is enormous,” Franken said. “Everything travels at the same speed, and net neutrality says let’s continue it that way.”
His work on these issues coupled with his celebrity background has insiders in Washington D.C. taking notice.
“He has surprised a lot of people, including me,” said CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer. “I mean, here is someone who has been on Saturday Night Live and he was just hilarious. He is Mr. Serious now, just as serious as he once was about comedy and I think that’s a good thing and I think he is going to be effective.”
The most recent public opinion poll from January found that Franken’s approval rating is at 45 percent. That’s significantly below that of Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is at 59 percent.
But for a Senator who won that infamous election by 312 votes and is up for re-election in 2014, that leaves plenty of time to make his case. The Franken/Coleman election was closest race both in Minnesota and U.S. history.
“I think Minnesotans are very fair and as time goes on they will be paying more and more attention to the work I have been doing and I feel that will take care of itself,” Franken said.