(CNN) - The Minnesota Supreme Court's decision Tuesday declaring Democrat Al Franken as the winner of that state's long-disputed U.S. Senate race ends a prolonged legal and political drama exactly 34 weeks, or 238 days, after the election was held in November 2008.
At the time the court released its ruling, the state's second U.S. Senate seat had gone unfilled since Republican Norm Coleman's term ended on January 3, 2009, for a total of 178 days. The seat will remain unfilled for several more days until Franken officially takes the oath of office next week, when Congress returns from the July 4 recess.
This is the longest a U.S. Senate seat has gone unfilled since 1975 and the fourth-longest period a Senate seat has gone unfilled since the direct election of senators began in 1913. Illinois holds the record for the longest unfilled senate seat, when it took two years to replace a senator who had died in office.
The longest vacancy due to a contested election was in 1975 in New Hampshire. That election was held in November 1974 but was not fully resolved for 10 months. After a prolonged and inconclusive recount, the seat was officially declared vacant on August 8, 1975, at which point a temporary senator was appointed to fill the seat. A special election was held on September 16, 1975, and the winner took office on September 18, 1975.
A list of the longest Senate seat vacancies is after the jump
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Minnesota Sen.-elect Al Franken will be the featured speaker at Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry this September. Franken spokeswoman Jess McIntosh confirmed that the senator-elect would be speaking at the event and said that Franken had signed on to do so prior to this week's certification of his election. "Al was thrilled to be invited and [is] eager to attend," she said.
The event, one of the Iowa Democratic Party's largest fundraisers, has long been considered one of the biggest events in Democratic politics. In 2007, it featured virtually every Democratic presidential contender – Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson.
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Franken had defeated incumbent senator Norm Coleman in the state's November Senate race. With the ruling, Franken became the Democratic caucuses' 60th vote in the senate. However, the former comedian dismissed the notion that he would be an automatic 60th vote.
"The way I see it, I'm not going to Washington to be the 60th Democratic senator," Franken said during a press conference held shortly after the court's ruling. "I'm going to Washington to be the second senator from the state of Minnesota and that's how I am going to do this job."
The steak fry will be held on September 13.
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) – One day after the Minnesota Supreme Court handed down it's unanimous decision in favor of Democrat Al Franken, the senator-elect thanked supporters and, for a moment, got emotional in a speech on the steps of the state capitol.
He seemed to strike a sentimental chord a couple of times, once when invoking former Minnesota Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone, who died in a plane crash in 2002.
"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," Franken said. "This seat belongs to the people of Minnesota, and so did Sen. Wellstone, and so will I."
Franken spent much of his roughly fifteen minute speech thanking his wife Franni, his supporters, volunteers, campaign staff, and the people of the state he will soon represent.
"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," Franken said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Next week Al Franken comes to the nation's capital to take his seat as his state's junior U.S. senator. So where does the Minnesota Democrat stand on some of the major issues the Senate will be grappling with this year?
Here's a look:
HEALTH CARE REFORM
According to his senate campaign, Franken supports universal health care. He backs requiring states to cover their citizens, with the federal government providing the necessary funding. Franken supports requiring states to cover all children up to 18 with Medicare-style single payer system health care.
Franken supports an "Apollo project" on renewable energy, which calls for a comprehensive economic investment strategy to build a clean energy economy and cut energy bills for American families and businesses. He supports additional research and funding for alternative energy sources such as corn, soy, wind and solar power. Franken also backs increased CAFE standards for vehicles and calls for additional funding, research for energy efficiency programs and light rail.
Franken supports "comprehensive immigration reform," which includes creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who meet certain requirements. He backs stronger fines and incarceration for employers who hire undocumented workers. Franken calls for tamper-proof worker identification cards. Franken opposes mass deportation of illegal immigrants and supports guest worker programs for seasonal jobs. He wants to work with Mexico to improve its economic conditions to reduce incentive for illegal immigrants to come to the United States.
(CNN) – Minnesota Sen.-elect Al Franken is set to have a busy first few weeks on the job.
The Democrat said Tuesday he's been told he will serve on the Judiciary Committee - the panel which will hear testimony from Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotmayor on her appointment to the high court.
Franken told reporters Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also told him he will serve on the Senate Committee of Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
(CNN) - President Obama issued a statement Tuesday congratulating Al Franken's victory in the Minnesota Senate race.
"I look forward to working with Senator-Elect Franken to build a new foundation for growth and prosperity by lowering health care costs and investing in the kind of clean energy jobs and industries that will help America lead in the 21st century.”
(CNN) - Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman Tuesday officially conceded defeat in his 2008 reelection bid, hours after the state's high court paved the way for Democrat Al Franken's victory.
"I just had a conversation with Al Franken congratulating him on his victory," Coleman said in a press conference with reporters. "I told him it’s the best job he'll ever have representing Minnesota in the United States Senate.
"The Supreme Court has spoken, I will respect its decision, and abide by its results," Coleman also said.
(CNN) - Minnesota's Supreme Court has dismissed former Sen. Norm Coleman's challenge to the state's November election results and declared Democratic challenger Al Franken the winner.
The unanimous opinion ruled that Franken "received the highest number of votes legally cast" and is entitled "to receive the certificate of election as United States senator from the state of Minnesota."
The former "Saturday Night Live" writer and performer had declared victory in the disputed race after a recount ended in January, but Coleman - a Republican who had been seeking a second six-year term - went to court to challenge those results.
Coleman still could attempt to take the challenge to federal courts, but Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, told CNN on Sunday that he would sign Franken's election certificate if the Supreme Court ordered it.
Updated: 2:25 p.m.
(CNN) – Lawyers for both Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken were grilled by the Minnesota state supreme court Monday, in a crucial hearing in the nearly seven month long post-election Senate seat battle between the candidates.
The justices on the state's highest court heard arguments on whether problems counting absentee ballots justify the reversal of a lower state court ruling that declared Franken, the former comedian and progressive radio talk show host, the winner by 312 votes over Coleman, the freshman senator whose term expired at the beginning of the year.
The court focused on claims by the Coleman camp that flaws in the counting over votes are serious enough to prevent Franken from winning the Senate seat. Coleman's asking for some 4,000 rejected absentee ballots to be counted.
The court has two options. They can confirm the lower court ruling that declared Franken the winner, or they can order more ballots to be counted, as Coleman argues. A ruling in favor of Coleman won't put him back in the Senate seat he used to hold, but it would extend his battle.
(CNN) - Nearly seven months after Election Day, the battle between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken for a U.S. Senate seat from Minnesota heads to the state's Supreme Court.
But an eventual ruling by Minnesota's top court may not bring an end to one of the nation's longest-running election disputes in decades.
The justices on the state's highest court will hear arguments today on whether problems counting absentee ballots justify the reversal of a lower state court ruling that declared Franken, the former comedian and progressive radio talk show host, the winner by 312 votes over Coleman, the freshman senator whose term expired at the beginning of the year.
Coleman was ahead after election day on November 4, but he led Franken by just over 200 votes out of the nearly three million cast. That triggered an automatic recount. When that process was completed at the beginning of the year, it indicated that Franken led by a similar number of votes.
The Coleman camp quickly appealed that ruling to the state legal system.
Coleman wants the court to order that more than 4,000 absentee ballots that were rejected be counted.