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Franken urges supporters on in final week

Al Franken, the DFL's U.S. Senate candidate, spoke to supporters at the University of Minnesota, Morris' Oyate Hall during a half-hour stop Monday.

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken certainly has to be pleased by poll numbers that show him even or ahead of incumbent Republican Norm Coleman in one of nation's most watched and hotly contested senatorial races.

And so Franken urged dozens of supporters in Morris on Monday to "get up early and stay up late" in the week ahead to push his candidacy before the Nov. 4 general election.

"It's going to be a close election," Franken told an audience at the University of Minnesota, Morris' Oyate Hall. "I don't want to wake up on Nov. 5 thinking there was something else I could have done, and I know you don't want that, either."

Franken's half-hour campaign stop in Morris was one of several he was scheduled to make Monday.

Both senate candidates were scheduled for Morris visits in the week before the election. Coleman, along with Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, are set to speak at DeToy's Family Restaurant at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

On Monday, Franken stuck to talking points that have been heard throughout his campaign, but, given his background in comedy, he mixed in a good dose of humor.

UMM's standing at the forefront of the renewable energy movement is "truly a model of what this county's and this state's energy policies can be," Franken said.

He noted that the wind turbine at the West Central Research and Outreach Center was made in Denmark, which served to highlight the fact that Americans have "squandered a lot of time" that could have been spent weaning themselves from the oil companies that are supporters of Coleman's.

The renewable energy movement will reduce dependence on that oil, will redirect money now subsidizing the oil industry and improve the environment, he said.

"Thanks for being leaders in that," Franken said.

Middle class tax cuts, creating a system that provides health care for all Minnesotans, improving public schools, and pushing his campaign pledge of a $5,000 annual tax credit for higher education have been cornerstones of Franken's campaign.

He also told the audience that ending the Iraq war, ensuring proper benefits for veterans, and protecting Social Security would be key issues in Franken's Senate agenda.

The late Sen. Paul Wellstone's service has been an inspiration for many years, Franken said, and he invoked Wellstone's legacy and the work of Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and the presidential aspirations of Barack Obama as a reason for supporters to get out the vote next week.

"If we're going to take Paul Wellstone's seat back, if we're going to give Amy Klobuchar a partner in the fight for local families, if we're going to give Barack Obama 60 Senators who share his values so we can make changes we so desperately need, then we're going to have to get to work over the next eight days."

While expressing admiration to be running for national office at a time when an African-American and a woman can be serious contenders for the presidency, Franken said that isn't exactly what the 2008 elections are about.

"The message of this election is not that anybody can become president, it's that everybody can have a good job," Franken said. "It's that everybody can have health care. It's that everybody can go to college. It's that everybody can reach for something meaningful in their lives."

Franken delivered some laugh lines when reminiscing. He spoke of talking with his wife of more than 32 years, Franni, about deciding to run for the state's Senate seat.

"Franni and I called friends and said we were running for the Senate, and that if we won, I get to be the Senator," Franken said.

He also told the story of his then-6-year-old daughter having to write a paper about how her parents met. Franken recounted for his daughter the story of first seeing Franni at a college mixer, asking her to dance, buying her a ginger ale, walking her back to her dorm and then asking her for a date.

However, Franken said, his daughter's version read like this: "Dad met Mom at a dance, he bought her a drink and took her home."

The audience laughed as Franken delivered a second punch line: "That," he said, "will be the next Coleman attack ad."