Al Franken battling for Senate seat

Tuesday, November 4, 2008
By Mira Oberman, AFP

CHICAGO -- There’s no joke about it: One of the costliest and roughest senate races in the United States is between comedian and Democratic activist Al Franken and an incumbent Republican using all his old lines against him.

One of the original writers for the iconic comedy show Saturday Night Live, Franken is now best known for the political commentary of his best-selling books and syndicated radio show.

And after a rough campaign, where he has been attacked for failing to pay his taxes and writing a raunchy article in Playboy magazine, Franken is currently running neck and neck with Norm Coleman to represent Minnesota in the U.S. senate.

Coleman won his seat in 2002 after Franken’s friend and long-time Democratic senator Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash 11 days before the election.

Franken has skewered Coleman for voting with unpopular President George W. Bush nearly 90 percent of the time and for accepting free trips and discounted rent from lobbyists.

Coleman has chided Franken for his “vicious” and “dirty” campaign smears — including tying him to a lawsuit alleging that a top donor funneled money to Coleman’s wife — and used expletive-filled clips from Franken’s radio program to declare him “out of control” and unfit for office.

The candidates have spent more than US$30 million on the race, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Franken has mostly eschewed comedy on the campaign trail, focusing on policy proposals and the problems with the current Republican administration and his plans to rebuild the “middle class economy” and make college and health care more affordable.

Born in New York in 1951, Franken moved to Minnesota when he was four years old.

Franken published his first best-selling attack on Republicans in 1996, a year after Republicans took over Congress amid a bitter cultural war.

He wrote his next best-seller, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right,” in 2003.

Franken joined the liberal backlash against conservative talk radio in 2004 with a five day a week, three hour show on the newly launched Air America Radio station.

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