By Don Davis
Minnesota’s Republican U.S. Senate candidate held up Sen. Amy Klobuchar as a model senator in his final debate of the campaign.
But the GOP’s Mike McFadden was highly critical of his Democratic opponent, Sen. Al Franken, during Sunday night’s public radio debate.
“I don’t think you have met the standard of a U.S. senator in this state,” McFadden told Franken.
Klobuchar, a Democrat, visits every one of Minnesota’s 87 counties each year, but not Franken, McFadden said. “I can’t tell you how many times I have been in cities and counties and they say you haven’t been there, Al. … I think you have been invisible.”
Franken reminded McFadden that he is busy in Washington, and may not visit every county every year, but has been held more than held 1,300 official meetings.
The Democratic incumbent told McFadden that it is easy to drive through a county and count it as having been visited.
While McFadden said Franken has been doing too little in Washington, trying to be anonymous, Franken retorted: “I don’t think I have been playing it safe.”
In the hour-long debate, Franken frequently mentioned that he often works with Republicans in the Senate. The debate was the first in which McFadden did not mention that Franken votes with President Barack Obama 97 percent of the time.
Sunday night’s debate was the third between Franken and McFadden this general election season. It aired on Minnesota Public Radio stations statewide and was hosted by MPR’s Kerry Miller and Cathy Wurzer with 430 in the theater audience.
Franken has held a solid lead in polls the past several weeks, but McFadden has been aggressive in his campaign in an effort to get attention and catch up. Like most frontrunners, Franken was quieter.
The incumbent is hoping for a bigger margin than he gained in the 2008 election. He beat then-Sen. Norm Coleman, but only after eight months of a recount and legal wrangling. He won by 312 votes.
Franken brought a national name as a comedian and writer on “Saturday Night Live”and left-wing talk show host into the 2008 campaign, although he grew up in St. Louis Park, Minn. He also lived in Albert Lea for a couple of years.
“I know some Minnesotans didn’t know quite what to expect from me,” Franken said at the close of the debate. “But I think they have seen that I work hard.”
Among issues Franken highlighted Sunday night were his work to reform college workforce programs, writing the energy portion of the farm bill, working on mental health legislation and trying to make the Internet available for everyone equally.
McFadden is making his first try at public office, taking a break from his financial services career. The Sunfish Lake resident grew up in Omaha, Neb., and attended St. Thomas College in St. Paul, and returned to the Twin Cities after graduating from Georgetown University law school.
The Republican’s closing remarks tied Franken to Obama.
“I think the decision is simple here,” McFadden said. “If you believe the president has done a good job, then vote for Al Franken. If you think the hyperpartisan Congress in Washington has done a good job, for all means vote for Franken.”