Minnesota Senator Al Franken is the keynote speaker at this Sunday’s “Steak Fry” fundraiser for Iowa Senator Tom Harkin. Franken says he’ll deliver a “hopeful” speech that will rally his fellow Democrats.
“I have known Senator Harkin for quite some time and I’ve always had tremendous regard for him. He was a friend of (former Minnesota Senator) Paul Wellstone’s, a very dear friend and Tom came and campaigned for me in Minnesota which I’m extremely grateful for, ” Franken said early this afternoon, clearing his throat and pausing before he delivered the punch line: “You know I didn’t win by a lot there, so that might have made the difference.”
After a recount and a seven-month court battle, Franken won his seat in the U.S. Senate by 312 votes. His Republican opponent conceded in late June and Franken was sworn in as a senator in early July. Franken is no longer the most junior member of the senate, however, as a new senator from Florida was sworn into office this week.
“Of course we had the long wait between the election and the swearing in, but it’s been worth it. You know, I got here late, but not too late,” Franken said during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa. “I’m looking forward to having an impact on this health care debate.”
Franken is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee which Senator Harkin now chairs. Franken said there’s a lot of “political work” to be done on health care reform and President Obama’s speech on Wednesday night helped the process.
“I think that the speech did rally people and from what I can tell it clarified a lot to Americans about what this is about and what it isn’t about,” Franken said.
Franken also found himself at the center of the action just after he became a senator in July. He’s a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee which held a public confirmation hearing on Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I came to the senate at a very crucial time,” Franken says.
Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are among the list of previous “Harkin Steak Fry” keynoters and Franken wrote a 1999 novel titled “Why Not Me? The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency.” Today, however, Franken tamped down the idea he has White House aspirations.
“I guess that most people who speak at the Steak Fry eventually run for president. I guess that’s been the history but I’m not interested in running for president,” Franken said. “I’m coming because I like Tom Harkin and I like steak.”
Franken started as a writer for “Saturday Night Live” in 1975 and he left the program in 1995 after creating memorable characters like self-help guru Stuart Smalley. Franken has had three books reach the top of the New York Times Bestseller list, including his “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.”
In 2004, Franken started a three-year stint as an “Air America” radio talk show host. During his last broadcast, on Valentine’s Day in 2007, he announced his candidacy for Minnesota’s U.S. Senate seat.