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Did you see: ECM Publishers Editorial Board endorses Al

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If Minnesotans in 2009 were expecting Al Franken to arrive in Washington, D.C., as a bombastic elected official wanting to turn the U.S. Senate into a comedy hall, they were clearly mistaken. Instead, Sen. Al Franken became a low-key, out-of-the-limelight senator who quietly went about his business of serving Minnesota.

With the narrowest of victories secured in a long and bitter recount with former Sen. Norm Coleman, Minnesota’s junior senator had little political capital to spend. Franken, who had made his mark as a television comedian, book author and radio political commentator, buckled down to business and stayed clear of a national media certainly hungry to feed on his celebrity.

Now six years later, Sen. Franken faces re-election on Nov. 4 and is challenged by Republican Mike McFadden and Steve Carlson, who won the Independence Party primary but has been disavowed by the party. We have followed Franken closely during his term and believe he deserves to continue his service to the state and nation.

Campaign rhetoric is one thing; getting results in Washington is something else. Franken has been repeatedly challenged by McFadden for voting with President Obama 97 percent of the time. It is also evident that Franken has made a determined effort to work across party lines and achieve bipartisan agreements.

An examination of Franken’s work reflects bipartisan efforts that have produced results. It was Franken’s provision in the 2010 health reform bill (the 80/20 rule) that required insurers to spend at least 80 percent on actual health care and not on administrative salaries and expenses, and marketing. Insurers that spent over 20 percent were required to rebate the difference to policy holders. More than $330 million was rebated to individuals in 2011, including nearly 2,000 Minnesotans who received more than $500,000.

Franken was active in passing the bipartisan 2014 farm bill where he helped write the energy section that expands the use of renewable energies that assist farmers and small businesses by cutting energy costs. The bill reforms the nation’s farm policy and saves money by cutting the federal deficit $24 billion. Franken supported legislation creating the 12-member bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction that recommended ways to slash $1.5 trillion from the federal deficit over the next decade. When agreement could not be found in Congress, automatic cuts of discretionary spending resulted in 2013 through sequestration.

We applaud Franken’s determined work on workforce investment programs that build partnerships between the government, schools, businesses and men and women who train to fill high-skill jobs. In a time when many jobs go unfilled because trained workers can’t be found, it is a highly important effort. Franken also was key in passing Wall Street reforms and co-authored specific reform of Wall Street credit rating agencies. He was on board in passing the 2013 bipartisan Violence Against Women Act that includes Franken provisions to protect victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. He was successful this year in securing funds for schools to improve mental health services for students and families.

Our endorsement of Al Franken is not a condemnation of ideas espoused by McFadden. Our editorial board was impressed with McFadden’s passion and understanding of key issues. He is on leave from a Minneapolis-based investment bank where he advised privately-held companies on mergers and acquisitions. He sees transportation, education and health care as key issues.

McFadden would keep the popular parts of the Affordable Care Act, but describes the federal mandate as a “train wreck” that is not providing quality health care and driving up costs. On transportation, McFadden understands there are gaping needs nationwide and believes roads and bridges in Minnesota have been neglected. With the total federal budget topping $3.5 trillion, he says dollars can be found to improve infrastructure. On education, McFadden believes the achievement gap and high school graduation rates between white and minority students is unacceptable and is the “civil rights issue of our time.”

There are clear differences in the candidates. McFadden would work for immediate approval of the Keystone pipeline and proposes that copper and nickel mining in northern Minnesota should commence soon. Franken will support Keystone if it is built with American steel and all regulatory steps are completed. The latter holds for mining in Minnesota. In foreign policy, McFadden supports the current actions in Iraq and Syria, but fears America’s allies don’t trust the U.S. and that the nation’s enemies don’t fear the U.S. Franken agrees that military action targeting ISIS is warranted but further authorization of force under the 2001-2002 act may be too broad.

We believe Al Franken is best prepared to deal with major issues facing the United States and Minnesota. If returned to office, we expect Franken to take the next step in becoming a national leader on a major issue, be it health care, foreign policy, the economy or immigration. He no longer needs to stand in the shadows; it’s now his opportunity to lead in the fashion of a Humphrey, McCarthy or Mondale.

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