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Franken tours as trial continues

ST. PAUL - Al Franken's campaign called him "Sen.-elect Franken," and Monday he acted like a senator.

The Democrat acknowledged his status is "up in the air" because of the pending U.S. Senate election trial, but he hit the road anyway for meetings typically convened by members of Congress.

The Democrat launched a two-day listening tour, stopping in St. Paul and Duluth, to meet with mayors as the election trial began its fourth week. He planned a Rochester stop today.

"I think that Minnesotans know that it's very possible that I'll be in the Senate and that I want to hit the ground running when I get there," Franken said.

Norm Coleman's campaign said the Senate race is far from over.

"It's a cheap publicity stunt and obviously highly presumptuous," Coleman spokesman Mark Drake said of the meetings and of Franken's campaign calling him "Sen.-elect Franken."

Franken said he does not introduce himself that way, but the title is accurate because he won the recount. That recount tally is the subject of Coleman's lawsuit.

Coleman has attended the trial most of its 16 days. On Monday, his attorneys raised concerns about a recent decision by the three-judge panel hearing the case.

The three judges ruled Friday that some types of rejected absentee ballots, such as those that arrived after Election Day, cannot be reviewed for possible counting because they were not lawfully cast.

Coleman's campaign said that ruling goes against the court's earlier decision to accept some votes in the election. The court's order does not treat similar ballots equally, the campaign said."That's a contradiction that we are concerned by," Coleman attorney Ben Ginsberg said. He estimated some 3,300 rejected absentee ballots can be reviewed, but the court's order blocked others.

As his attorneys were preparing for the election trial's fourth week, Franken was across town meeting with three Twin Cities-area officials to discuss the federal economic stimulus package and its effect on local communities.

"I hope we can continue this for a long time," Franken told mayors Monday. "My status is a little up in the air."

Franken said he is in Minnesota, so visiting with local officials makes sense. He plans more state travel in the coming days. "This is a good use of my time," he said.