Al Franken won his first term to the U.S. Senate in 2009 after a drawn-out recount that gave him the win by only 312 votes. It was an epic six-month legal battle that ended with Franken finally reclaiming the Senate seat once held by the great Paul Wellstone, returning it to Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and progressives everywhere.
Conventional wisdom followed that, because the vote was so close, Franken would be a top target for the Republicans in 2014. But their pool of likely candidates has proven to be shallow.
Before his election in 2009, Franken included his politics in his successful career as a comedian. His “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big, Fat Idiot” made it to No. 1 on the New York Times Best Sellers List in 1996.
With the GOP stalling on naming a Franken opponent, and Michele Bachmann declining to run for reelection, Minnesota may have settled a little deeper in its progressive roots. That couldn’t have happened without Franken building a strong record during his first term.
Progressive Credentials: Franken’s legislative priorities include his bipartisan proposal to clean up the flawed credit-rating system. Franken’s plan would end credit ratings agency conflicts of interest by creating an independent, SEC-appointed board to assign which ratings agencies will calculate the risk of financial products.
A leading advocate for consumers, Franken has sponsored bills to ensure home care consumers have basic protections; to improve the quality of infant and toddler care; and to end mandatory arbitration of employment, consumer, antitrust or civil rights disputes.
On the education front, Franken has highlighted college affordability and student debt. His “Understanding the True Cost of College Act” would require all schools to provide students with a standard form that would inform students of their financial responsibilities.
One of Franken’s innovative ideas would cut the cost of college by helping students earn degrees in less time. Franken’s bill, the Accelerated Learning Act of 2013, would expand access to programs that allow students to earn college credits while in high school through accelerated learning and dual enrollment programs.
Why We Like Him: No question that Franken has proven to be a serious legislator, but he still knows how to lighten the mood. When proceedings became tense in a recent committee hearing on President Obama’s recess appointment of NLRB members, Franken broke the tension with a simple but well-timed, “How’s it going?”
And of course, because he’s good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like him.
Candidate Quote: “Conservatives like to say that people need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps – and that’s a great idea. But first, you’ve got to have the boots.”