Analysts say it’s likely Senator Al Franken will resign his U-S Senate seat today amid growing allegations of sexual harassment. Carleton College Professor Steven Schier says pressure for Franken to step down is overwhelming, particularly from fellow Democrats. Schier says, “He can’t work effectively with his own partisan colleagues in such circumstances, and that I think will force the resignation.” Schier adds if Roy Moore is elected to the Senate in Alabama, Democrats don’t want someone with a “questionable record on sexual ethics” in their caucus when they challenge him.
If Franken resigns as expected, Governor Mark Dayton must appoint a replacement. Schier says, “I think there will be pressure on the governor to appoint a female, given the nature of the charges surrounding Senator Franken.” Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith’s name is mentioned most frequently. That would set up an interesting political situation because state Senator Michelle Fischbach from Paynesville — a Republican — would then become lieutenant governor. Because the G-O-P has a one-vote margin in the state Senate, Democrats would fight hard for that vacated seat in a special election, trying to regain majority control. But most analysts agree that Fischbach’s district is firmly in Republicans’ camp.
Schier says alternate choices to replace Franken would be House Democratic Minority Leader Melissa Hortman or Representative Erin Murphy, who’s running for governor. Other names being tossed around include 5th District Congressman Keith Ellison, who represents the Democratic stronghold of Minneapolis. Second District Congressman Tim Walz is also being mentioned, but he’s generally considered the front-running candidate for governor in 2018.
Schier says as Governor Mark Dayton ponders whom he’ll appoint to replace Franken, “One of the first questions Dayton has to ask himself is, do I want someone to just fill out the term, or do I want someone who will start a long career in the U-S Senate potentially by running for re-election when I make this appointment?”
Republicans say the upheaval is a major opportunity for them to win back the Franken seat in 2018.
More in Bill Werner’s interview of Professor Schier: