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Public Statements - Minn. Senate Race Headed to Automatic Recount Even As Coleman Declares Victory Over Franken

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Location: St. Paul, MN - Minn. Senate Race Headed to Automatic Recount Even As Coleman Declares Victory Over Franken

By BRIAN BAKST and PATRICK CONDON , Associated Press

A slugfest for nearly two years, Minnesota's U.S. Senate race headed into a new round Wednesday as the campaigns girded for an automatic statewide recount to determine whether Republican Sen. Norm Coleman's bare lead over Democratic challenger Al Franken would stand.

Coleman declared himself the winner of Tuesday's election, but Franken said he would let the recount play out, hoping it would erase the incumbent's 475-vote lead out of nearly 2.9 million ballots. State officials said the recount wouldn't start until mid-November and would probably take weeks.

If he hangs on, Coleman would be among the Republicans who survived Democratic gains in Senate races nationwide. Democrats ousted two Republican incumbents and picked up three seats held by retiring GOP incumbents. Three other Republicans besides Coleman were trying to hang on in races too close to call.

"Yesterday the voters spoke. We prevailed," Coleman said Wednesday at a news conference. He noted Franken could opt to waive the recount.

"It's up to him whether such a step is worth the tax dollars it will take to conduct," Coleman said, telling reporters he would "step back" if he were in Franken's position. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said the recount would cost 3 cents per ballot, or almost $90,000.

As counties and Ritchie's office reconciled their unofficial vote totals Wednesday, Coleman's margin fluctuated but was at 475 votes Wednesday afternoon: Coleman had 1,211,642 votes, or 41.99 percent of the total votes cast, while Franken had 1,211,167 votes, or 41.98 percent.

Dean Barkley of the Independence Party was third with 15.16 percent.

State law provides for automatic recounts in races decided by a half-percentage point or less.

"We won't know for a little while who won the race, but at the end of the day we will know the voice of the electorate is clearly heard," Franken said Wednesday. "This has been a long campaign, but it is going to be a little longer before we have a winner."

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