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Franken Passes on Minnesota Senate Race

Two Republicans are poised to jump into the race to replace retiring Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) in 2006, while comedian-turned liberal radio talk show host Al Franken announced at the end of his three-hour program today that he would not run.

Former Sen. Rod Grams (R-Minn.), told Minnesota media outlets this morning that he plans to run, although he won’t make a formal announcement for a while. And Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-Minn.), who is seen as the national GOP’s top recruit in the race, is widely expected to announce his intentions to run tomorrow morning.

A spokeswoman in Kennedy’s Congressional office said she could not answer political questions but sources have been saying he will get in quickly in the aftermath of Dayton’s announcement Wednesday that he would not seek a second term.

While the 2006 Senate race in the Gopher State is expected to be one of the most competitive of the cycle, it will take place without a bona fide celebrity, Franken.

“I am not running for Senate in 2006,” Franken said during the “Al Franken Show,” which is broadcast on Air America. “Minnesotans are very serious about their politics and it would be very silly for me to run; I don’t live there.”

Franken, who was raised in Minnesota, said he felt obligated to honor his two-year commitment to the fledgling radio network, but added that he would consider running against Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) in 2008.

“If I ran in 2008 I would move back there,” he said.

As soon as Dayton surprised almost everyone Wednesday with his decision to step down in 2007, names of could-be candidates began flying.

Franken’s was one of the most interesting, considering the former “Saturday Night Live” writer has openly discussed returning to his Gopher State roots to pursue politics before.

He made devotees and reporters alike sit through all three hours of his program Thursday, during which he discussed everything from Korea’s nuclear weapons capability to Social Security to Bill O’Reilly’s college football days to Rush Limbaugh’s backside before announcing that he would not seek the Democratic nomination.

He said he wants to continue “debunking the right” and offer an alternative to what is mostly found on the talk radio circuit today.

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