Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) resigned on Thursday, one day after a wave of his Democratic colleagues urged him to step down following allegations of sexual misconduct from multiple women.
Now, it’s up to Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to name Franken’s replacement. And though no formal decision has been made, it’s likely a woman will take the spot. Dayton is widely expected to name Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to Franken’s Senate seat until the 2018 midterm elections, according to multiple reports.
Immediately after Franken’s speech, Dayton said in a statement that he has made no final decision about a replacement, but will make his announcement soon.
“Events have unfolded quickly; thus, I have not yet decided on my appointment to fill this upcoming vacancy,” Dayton’s statement said. “I expect to make and announce my decision in the next couple of days.”
Smith checks a number of boxes: She’s a woman, she is a high-profile and active member of Dayton’s administration, and, importantly, she is seen as someone who has no interest in running for Franken’s seat in 2018, clearing the field for an open race in November.
Serving as lieutenant governor was Smith’s first time in elected office. A long-time political operative in Minnesota, she became Dayton’s lieutenant governor after serving as his chief of staff for years.
One of Smith’s most important qualifications to be Franken’s replacement is the fact that she does not seem to want to run for Franken’s seat, or any political office. Earlier this year, she quashed speculation that she would run for Minnesota governor in November to replace her boss, whose term is up in 2018.
“I never expected nor planned to serve in elected office,” she said in a Facebook post, adding she would work hard to elect another Democrat to the governor’s office.
With Franken’s resignation, 2018 just became a pivotal year for Minnesota Democrats.
The former senator wasn’t up for reelection until 2020, but now there will likely be an open race for his seat. Franken’s Democratic colleague from Minnesota, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, is up for reelection. And with Dayton’s term ending and no immediate successor lined up, Republicans are sure to challenge all three.
“This presents a major opportunity for Republicans in Minnesota,” GOP operative Brian McClung told Politico. “Republicans here are going to be energized by the chance to replace Al Franken.”