The State Capitol is abuzz with speculation about whom Governor Mark Dayton might appoint to replace Senator Al Franken, who’s resigning amid sex harassment allegations. The names of Congressmen Tim Walz and Keith Ellison plus a number of others have come up, but most commonly mentioned is lieutenant governor and long-time Dayton confidante Tina Smith. Carleton College analyst Steven Schier says he could see Smith as a “placeholder”, but “so far she’s been a person who hasn’t really sought out the public limelight and may not be comfortable with a future that involves moving to Washington and being a very conspicuous member of the U-S Senate.” If Dayton were to appoint Smith it would have complicated political repercussions because the Republican president of the Minnesota Senate, Paynesville Senator Michelle Fischbach, would then become lieutenant governor — which could also trigger a special election for her seat at a time when Republicans hold only a one-vote majority in the Minnesota Senate.
And after Governor Mark Dayton appoints a temporary replacement, who will run for Franken’s seat in 2018? Possible names are flying around the halls of the State Capitol. A short list of Democrats so far includes Congressmen Tim Walz, Keith Ellison and Rick Nolan, Attorney General Lori Swanson, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and State Representative Ilhan Omar. Republicans include former Governor Tim Pawlenty, former Senator Norm Coleman, former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Congressmen Tom Emmer and Erik Paulsen, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. Carleton Professor Schier says, “There are a whole bunch of things that are in play here and a lot of uncertainties between now and 2018…. I think all those people are possible, but will any of them do it? Who knows?”