Democrat Al Franken still hasn't been officially seated as Minnesota's U.S. Senator, but that hasn't stopped him from starting to staff a Senate office.
Franken's staff today announced that he plans to hire longtime DFL activist Alana Peterson to serve as his state director, a move clearly intended to position him as the likely winner of the still-unresolved contest with Republican Norm Coleman.
Peterson served in a variety of political roles, most recently as political director and state field director for Rep. Jim Oberstar, dean of the state's congressional delegation.
In a press release. Franken is quoted as saying Peterson will allow him to "hit the ground running on Day One," citing constituent help that is likely to be needed by Social Security recipients, small business owners and veterans.
As Minnesota's second Senate seat has remained empty all year, Sen. Amy Klobuchar's staff has been under increasing strain to provide such services.
Franken spokeswoman Jess McIntosh emphasized that Peterson hasn't actually yet been hired because Franken hasn't been officially certified as the winner of the Senate contest.
That isn't likely imminent because Republican Norm Coleman says he will file a formal appeal this week to a three-judge panel ruling that declared Franken the winner of the election.
Even so, his release today identifies Franken as "Sen.-elect," terminology his attorneys and spokespeople have been consistently using.
Republicans promptly blasted Franken's announcement, dismissing it as a "publicity stunt."
In a prepared statement, state GOP chairman Ron Carey said Franken "has decided that 4,400 Minnesota voters are disposable. While the due process and equal protection rights of our fellow citizens are being denied, Al Franken is determined to thumb his nose at the Minnesota Supreme Court."