Good morning, and welcome to Thursday. All eyes are on Washington where Sen. Al Franken says he will make an announcement.
1. Franken’s office pushed back against a report that he will resign. A Democratic official who has spoken to Al Franken and key aides says Franken will resign his Minnesota Senate seat on Thursday, the official tells MPR News. The official spoke to Franken and separately to Franken’s staff. A staff member told the official that Franken had gone to his Washington home to discuss his plans with family. MPR News agreed to withhold the official’s name because the official wanted to give Franken the chance to talk about his decision in his own words. After MPR News reported the planned resignation, a tweet from Franken’s official account said it was “not accurate.” “No final decision has been made and the senator is still talking with his family,” the tweet read. (MPR News)
2. Franken has lost the support of most of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate. At least 28 Democratic senators and the Democratic National Committee chair called Wednesday for Franken to resign. Sen. Amy Klobuchar tweeted a response to the news on Wednesday afternoon: “Sexual harassment is unacceptable. This morning I spoke with Senator Franken and, as you know, he will be making an announcement about his future tomorrow morning. I am confident he will make the right decision.” Minnesota Democratic Reps. Tim Walz and Collin Peterson both called for Franken to resign, as did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer of New York also called on Franken to step down. (MPR News)
3. The erosion of support came after Franken denied another allegation of misconduct. A former Democratic congressional aide said Al Franken tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006, three years before he became a U.S. senator. The aide, whose name Politico withheld, said Franken pursued her after her boss had left the studio. She said she was gathering her belongings to follow her boss out of the room. When she turned around, Franken was in her face. “This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation,” Franken said in a statement. (Politico)
4. What happens if Franken resigns today? Gov. Mark Dayton will appoint a replacement. The only requirements are that it is a Minnesota resident, at least 30 years old, and a U.S. citizen for at least nine years. Franken’s six-year term is set to expire in January 2021, but the Dayton appointee would not stay in office that long without an election. A special election would be held in November of 2018 — the same time Minnesotans will be voting for governor and the state’s other Senate seat, held by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar. The Dayton appointee need not run for re-election at that time. He or she could be a short-time placeholder. The winner of the special election would serve out the remainder of Franken’s term — until January 2021 — and face re-election in November 2020, thus restoring the six-year cycle of Senate seats. (Pioneer Press)
5. Who would Dayton pick? The name most often mentioned is Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. A high-ranking Democratic source told the Star Tribune on Wednesday that Smith, a close ally to Dayton and longtime DFL insider, is his likeliest choice to replace Franken. Under that scenario, Smith would serve as a temporary replacement who would not run for the seat in a November 2018 special election. But Dayton and his staff aren’t talking. Even the possibility of a vacant U.S. Senate seat had political operatives scrambling to compile research on the large and growing number of potential candidates. Dayton is expected to move quickly to name a replacement if and when Franken makes it official. (Star Tribune)