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Coleman appeals to supporters to send him back to D.C.; senator highlights economy, energy as priorities

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WILLMAR -- When U.S. senators leave office, it's tradition for them to carve their names into their desks.

"I'm not ready to carve my name yet," U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman told a gathering of supporters Monday morning in Willmar.

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More than 40 people met with Coleman at the Northern States Supply building in the Willmar Industrial Park. He appealed to them to work on his behalf for the remaining two weeks of the campaign and send him back to Washington for another six years.

Coleman faces Democrat Al Franken and Independent Party candidate Dean Barkley in the Nov. 4 election. The battle has been hard-fought, and Coleman and Franken are in a dead-heat. Coleman was elected to the Senate in 2002 and had previously served as mayor of St. Paul. Franken is a former Saturday Night Live writer and performer and has written several best-selling books. Barkley has run for the Senate before and served briefly in the Senate in 2002. Gov. Jesse Ventura appointed him after the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Coleman's stop was part of his "Hope Express" tour to close out his re-election campaign. It includes 91 stops around the state in 20 days.

Coleman joked that he worries about wearing out his welcome in Willmar, where he has visited often enough during his campaigns to be on a first-name basis with many of his local supporters.

He spoke to the group about how "I still pinch myself" each day he goes to work at the U.S. Capitol and about the things he would like to accomplish in a second term.

"One of the things we need to do -- get control of the federal budget," he said. A good start would be to give the president line-item veto power over budget bills, he added.

Overcoming a growing partisan divide in Washington is another priority for him, he said.

Working together across party lines is something Minnesotans understand, and it's something he has tried to do in Washington, he said. The first legislation he passed was a joint effort with former Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton to help service members who had trouble finding transportation to get home on leave.

Developing alternative energy will be a priority, he said. He listed a number of sources he wanted to see developed, including solar, wind, cellulosic ethanol and nuclear.

He said he would also support environmentally responsible off-shore oil drilling. A side benefit would be the billions of dollars raised by selling leases could be used to develop other alternative energy sources and create jobs.

While he's campaigning, he said, he talks to people about several issues.

He's proud of his work on the farm bill and his vote to help break a filibuster to get the bill passed, he said, and about his work to improve rural health care.

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