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Coleman celebrates victory
Republican Norm Coleman Wednesday celebrated his election to the U.S. Senate. Coleman defeated former Vice President Walter Mondale, who entered the race less than a week ago, taking Sen. Paul Wellstone's place on the ballot after Wellstone was killed in a plane crash. After a long night of vote counting, Mondale conceded defeat Wednesday morning. Unofficial results show Coleman beat Mondale by 50 percent to 47 percent -- almost 50,000 votes.

St. Paul, Minn. —

Norm Coleman

Norm Coleman celebrates his U.S. Senate victory at a Republican rally Wednesday at the state Capitol rotunda. Listen to his acceptance speech.

(MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)


Norm Coleman celebrated his hard fought Senate victory at a noon state Capitol rally. He thanked his campaign staff, his family and President George W. Bush, who convinced him to run for the Senate. Coleman also remembered former Sen. Paul Wellstone.

"His legacy will be the standard he has set for passion and for energy," Coleman said. "Minnesotans should expect those who hold this office to have that same passion and energy, and I will carry on that portion of his legacy."

Coleman's election came amid Republican gains around the country. The GOP widened its margin of control in the House of Represenatives, and took back control of the Senate. It's the first time in two generations Republicans have controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. Still, Coleman promised to represent all Minnesotans.

"The framers created the Senate to protect the people against tyrannies of the majority. My challenge is to reach out, to listen and to be inclusive. Narrowing ideology did not win this race yesterday, but a commitment to pragmatically address the needs of Minnesotans right now. I will go more than halfway to make sure that no one feels disenfranchised by the results yesterday," said Coleman.

Earlier in the day, Walter Mondale called Coleman to congratulate him and concede defeat. He told the former St. Paul mayor that being in the Senate is the best job in America. Surrounded by Wellstone campaign staffers at a downtown St. Paul hotel ballroom, Mondale said he had no regrets about his abbreviated campaign.

Walter Mondale

Walter Mondale conceded the U.S. Senate race to Republican Norm Coleman Wednesday morning. Listen to his speech.

(MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)


"In what is obviously the end of my last campaign I want to say to Minnesotans, you always treated me decently. You always listened to me. You always did what really wonderful citizens do, and now you've made your decision," Mondale said. "We respect it. I am so proud of this state and so proud of its people, and I thank you for all that you've done for me and my family, and for the values that I hold so dearly."

Mondale also consoled what he called the young people who worked so hard for Wellstone's re-election, and ultimately Mondale's campaign. Mondale said ideals are often more tested in defeat than in victory, and he urged them to keep fighting.

In response to reporters' questions, Mondale addressed the Wellstone memorial service which took sharp partisan turns and angered many across party lines. Mondale says some statements went too far and were regrettable. But he asked Minnesotans to remember the circumstances.

"We went through unspeakable tragedy -- the senator, his wife, his daughter and several other people died. And the euologizers were the ones who were hurt the most," said Mondale. "It doesn't justify it -- I'm not saying that -- but we've all made mistakes. And can't we now find it in our hearts to forgive them and go on and do what we must do as citizens."

Looking ahead to his future in the Senate, Norm Coleman says he will work on a jobs program for Minnesota. He says having gone through "this wall of fire," at the request of President Bush, he will take advantage of his ties to the White House.

"The president has come to Minnesota and has an interest in us now, and I intend to utilize that to help us deal with the major problems that we have," he said.

Coleman also talked about joining forces with Republican Governor-elect Tim Pawlenty to help get Minnesota's financal house in order.

He says he'll be in Washington soon to meet with other Republican senators to begin organizing for the next session of Congress. He says he wants a seat on the Agriculture Committee and will also ask for a spot on the Finance Committee.

"I realize I am just a freshman senator, but I'm going to seek to do the best job I can for Minnesotans, and be in the best position to do that," said Coleman.

On Monday, Gov. Ventura appointed fellow Independence Party member Dean Barkley to temporarily fill Wellstone's seat until Coleman begins his new term. It's still unclear whether Barkley will serve until the election is certified later this month, or until Coleman is sworn in to office in early January.

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