What if Franken resigns?

Not surprisingly, because politics never takes a break, there’s already speculation about whom will replace DFL U.S. Sen. Al Franken if he resigns following Thursday’s allegations that he sexually harassed a woman during a USO tour.

So let’s review the Senate rules and let the speculation continue.

If a vacancy occurs due to a senator’s death, resignation, or expulsion, the Seventeenth Amendment allows state legislatures to empower the governor to appoint a replacement to complete the term or to hold office until a special election can take place.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. Some states require a special election to fill a vacancy. A few states require the governor to appoint a replacement of the same political party as the previous incumbent.

The date when a senator appointed to fill a vacancy is succeeded by a senator elected to fill the remainder of the term depends on a number of factors.

The last time a Minnesota senator was replaced under the 17th Amendment was when Sen. Paul Wellstone was killed and then-Gov. Jesse Ventura appointed his Minnesota Reform Party ally Dean Barkley to the unexpired term. Barkley served only two months because a regular Senate election was already scheduled at the time of Wellstone’s death, an election won by Norm Coleman.

Prior to that, Muriel Humphrey finished the unexpired term of her husband, Hubert, when he died in January 1978. Gov. Rudy Perpich selected her for the position.

At the time, she didn’t commit to running for the seat in the election later that year. Ultimately she decided not to seek the DFL nomination in a special election and the seat eventually went Republican when Dave Durenberger beat Bob Short in a special election.

At the same time, Rudy Boschwitz beat Wendell Anderson for the state’s other Senate seat. That seat was vacated with the election of Walter Mondale as vice president in 1976. Anderson resigned as governor in a deal that would see lieutenant governor Rudy Perpich ascend to the governor’s job and appoint Anderson to fill Mondale’s term.

Under Minnesota law, a special election is required to fill a U.S. Senate seat the next November election if the vacancy occurs at least 11 weeks before the regular state primary preceding that election. That would be Aug. 14, 2018.

If the vacancy occurs less than 11 weeks before the regular state primary preceding the next November election, the special election shall be held at the second November election after the vacancy occurs.

If a hypothetical Franken resignation were to occur anytime before June 29, Gov. Mark Dayton would appoint someone to succeed Franken until voters decide a replacement, presumably, at the November election.

That would certainly rejigger the current race for governor, as some candidates might decide to switch to a U.S. Senate campaign, and it would put Gov. Dayton in the position of deciding whether to appoint a DFL candidate for the office in a bid to give him or her a boost in the election, or appoint a safer candidate and let the voters fully decide. (The DFL convention, by the way, is next June 1-3)

It also disrupts the mid-term congressional races in Minnesota because the mostly likely Senate candidates are usually people already in Congress. If Franken were to wait until after next June to resign, voters wouldn’t choose a successor until November 2019.

Politics is a tough game and Franken is spilling blood in its water right now. It’s a fair bet that sharks in both parties are moving toward it just in case.

  • Matthew Becker
    • Interesting.

    • Jim E

      Tina Smith would actually be an excellent choice to serve out the remainder of the term (if needed).

      • Jeff

        I agree but she didn’t want to run for Governor so not sure she’d want to be in the Senate. Also, you’d be handing over the advantage of the incumbent mantle so you’d want to be pretty sure they would want to run when the term was up.

  • jon

    I don’t think it even remotely likely that franken will resign.

    I don’t even know that he’d suffer in a re-election bid in 2020, or in his planned presidential run…

    The right isn’t alone in it’s ability to deny reality… I’ve read many statements already from folks on the left that the photo was photoshopped, or that this is the work of russian trolls… a portion of the progressive left is firmly entrenched in denial, even as franken acknowledged that the events occurred, more or less…

    While it’s nice to pretend that all the sudden america is ready to remove those who sexually assaulted people from political office, We literally just came out of an election just over a year ago where the american public stated very clearly… that they don’t really give a crap, not when political party wins are on the line, or at least roughly half of them don’t…

    Moore will win Alabama by a tight margin (for a republican in Alabama so <10 points) and franken will stay in his job, and by 2020 when franken is up for re-election (like he isn't going to make a run for the presidency…) this will all be old news…

    I'm not saying ignoring these sexual assault allegations is right or fair…. just that it's likely to be what happens.

    • Rob

      I’m a progressive who’s not in denial, and is not ignoring the allegations, as my post below attests. Stop the generalizing.

    • // We literally just came out of an election just over a year ago where the american public stated very clearly… that they don’t really give a crap, not when political party wins are on the line, or at least roughly half of them don’t…

      Well the majority of the American public voted against the guy who was accused of harassing women, so I’m not really sure this is an accurate statement. And it’s certainly not an accurate statement w.r.t. to Minnesota, who are the only voters who matter in this particular exercise.

      • jon

        45% of Minnesota went to Trump 47% to Hillary.
        Roughly half.
        Though it holds true for the country too.

        • That strikes me as at least 47% — a plurality — who give a “crap”. More likely: 55%

          • jon

            So roughly half, don’t. So my point stands unless you’re trying to argue that 45% isn’t roughly half…

          • It’s been pretty clear for a long time that those opposed to legalized abortion will overlook just about everything else to advance their effort. I don’t believe that means that they don’t give “a crap” about sexual harassment and abuse. I think they care about the abortion issue much more. There’s a lot to parse out with election results.

            It feels very much like a cultural moment right now and I don’t think it’s owned by a political party.

          • Kellpa07

            “:It’s been pretty clear for a long time that those in favor of legalized abortion will overlook just about everything else to advance their effort. I don’t believe that means that they don’t give “a crap” about sexual harassment and abuse. I think they care about the abortion issue much more. There’s a lot to parse out with election results.”

            See: Nina Burleigh.

          • jon

            So we are in violent agreement here.

            That at least roughly half of people don’t care enough about sexual assaults in the history of a candidate to override the interests of the political party they are affiliated with. (The one that represents their views on issues like abortion or global warming, or whatever.)

            I know it’s hard to hear, but we also have evidence that it’s true.
            Heck we’ve got polls out of Alabama showing that Moore having multiple women accuse him off sexual misconduct in various forms makes some 20-30% of people more likely to vote for him, and 11-35% less likely to vote for him (sorry about the wide spread but that’s what the polls show probably one of the two I found is a outlier, but hard to know which with out more data… Cross tabs on demographics on those questions is crazy and suggests that the Evangelical crowd is more likely that the general population to be pro sexual misconduct as a feature in their senators… )

            Just to be clear that means that some ~40% don’t care, and some ~70% either don’t care or prefer a candidate with sexual assaults in his background…

            I know that is Alabama, and this is Minnesota, but obviously there is no polling for Minnesota on a breaking story yet… But the odds of Minnesota breaking significantly away in these numbers doesn’t seem good to me… Sure we might do better, but the majority of people won’t care enough to override their political preference…

            Is that good, far from it, it’s terrible… But like I said above, this is what’s likely to happen, not what I’d like to see happen or what is morally righteous, or anything else…

          • We’re in agreement only to extent of what I said regarding a single issue held to be important by individuals.

      • Kellpa07

        and the majority of voters voted for a woman who enabled and attempted to cover up the rape, abuse, and harassment of women. You won’t go too far wrong believing that each side is selective in its outrage.

        • Rob

          Yes, the Dems looking the other way on Clinton was shameful.

          • Kellpa07

            Of course, now that the Clintons are useless to the democrats, they’re kicking him to the curb, and by extension, HRC. Partisan cowards all around.

      • Joseph

        Don’t forget, as pertains to Minnesota, the majority of people in greater MN did vote for the guy who bragged about sexually assaulting women. (And even in the Iron Range, they barely squeaked by for Hillary — it was close there.)

    • Sam M

      I don’t know about re-election but I agree he won’t resign.

      We all need to get out of our political corners on this…. all these stories make me sick regardless of party or industry. Pedophilia is a whole other level though and that can’t be forgotten.

  • Rob

    I voted for Franken but just sent his office a message condemning his actions and informing him that I won’t ever vote for him again. I hope Franken does resign quickly and that Dayton appoints a progressive Democratic woman to replace him.

    • Jeff

      I want to hear all the facts before getting my pitchfork out of storage.

      • Sam M

        He has admitted to it so I’m not sure there are that many more facts to hear.

        • He admitted to the picture. He didn’t admit to the allegation of the kiss behind stage.

      • jon

        So you’ve probably not seen the photo yet then…
        It’s in the first link Bob posted…

        • Jeff C.

          You are talking about the photo that shows his hands *near* her breasts but not *touching* her jacket, right? The one where he is a jack*ss, but not doing what she claims he did (groping her)? I agree with him (Franken) that he shouldn’t have done what he did but I also agree with Jeff that we should hear all the facts before we get out our pitchforks. He has apologized. She has accepted the apology. She isn’t calling for him to resign. Maybe we should see if other claims come forward and look into other punishments before rushing into resignation.

          • Laurie K.

            The fact that he shoved his tongue in her mouth substantiates the groping “claims” in my mind regardless of how you choose to view the photo. Also, Franken admitted to the behavior so I am not sure what other “facts” anyone needs. The apology after he was outted does nothing to diminish his actions. He got called out – THAT’S why he apologized – he had 11 years to reflect on his behavior and should have apologized long ago.

      • Rob

        The photo of Franken’s hands outstretched over Tweeden’s breasts – which was apparently taken by Franken’s own brother – is more than sufficient for me. Your mileage may vary.

        • Jeff

          Someone in the WaPo comments said that it was staged with her consent, but that still makes it in poor taste in the least I guess.

          • Rob

            Where did you read it?

          • Jeff

            I edited my comment. It was not a news source so probably not worth repeating.

          • Jeff C.

            Franken pretty much says that the photo is real: “I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it
            doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted
            with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s
            obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture.”

          • Joseph

            Also, it appears his hands are hovering over her flak-jacket, and not actually touching her. As is said above, it was extremely poor taste, but not actually touching.

        • Jeff

          I have mixed feelings. He doesn’t have any history of harassment (that we know of). He is contrite and welcomes an investigation. He wasn’t a Senator at the time. None of this excuses his actions but what level does this rise to? I’d like to know the facts before rushing to a judgement. But I understand wanting purity on this issue. Have to start somewhere.

  • Al

    Every woman (and man) who’s been assaulted by a politician is wondering right now if she should speak up (and potentially tank her party for the near future, be harassed for years, etc. etc. etc.), or shut it down and never feel fully human.


  • MrE85

    Consider also what Franken leaving in the near future would mean to a very close vote in the Senate on the tax bill, which includes the provision to end the ACA individual mandate.

    Yes, Dayton would appoint a Democrat, but the timing could be messy.

    • Rob

      That’s the way the cookie crumbles. He needs to be outta there right now if Dems are to maintain any credibility on harassment and groping issues.

      • MrE85

        We’re already discussing harassment and groping as if there were different conservative and liberal positions on this. There really can’t be. Or should be.

        • Rob

          Uh, yes. That’s why political considerations, such as the one you noted, can’t be used to justify him remaining in office. Much as I’d like the Republican clusterf&!k ing to stop, it’s critical that Dems have integrity on issues of sexual harassment – and they can’t if they don’t hold Franken’s feet to the fire.

        • jon

          It shouldn’t be a liberal vs. conservative issue, and there shouldn’t be any one who is pro-grope… but then there are a lot of people making a lot of excuses for people they support who are accused of groping…

          Those things range from biblical justifications (disgusting) to dismissing it as harmless (disgusting) to trying to normalize it (“it was a different time”, or “just locker room talk.”)

          We’ll see if anyone comes out of the woodwork on the left to defend Franken with these types of pro-grope statements… Both parties should find these people in their ranks, and ask them to leave, and go form their own political party based on the ideal of groping without consent… (and see how many times they get punched in the nose while door knocking).

  • Fixed post to clarify that Boschwitz won the seat vacated with Walter Mondale’s election. That seat went to Wendell Anderson, who was appointed by Perpich, who was lt. governor until Anderson resigned in a deal to have Perpich appoint him to the position.

    Muriel Humphrey’s seat went to David Durenberger.

  • Robert

    My initial guess is he’s 50/50 to stay in the Senate. If anymore people come forward with additional accusations he’s toast. If this is a single event he probably survives but this ends his presidential aspirations and depending on how things play out maybe his re-election. Morally reprehensible but politically survivable.

  • Dulcinian

    9th paragraph needs editing.

    • Specifics, plz. and thank you.

      • Dulcinian

        At the same time, Rudy Boschwitz beat Wendell Anderson for the state’s other Senate seat. That seat was vacated with the election of Walter Mondale as vice president in 1976. Anderson resigned as governor in a deal that would see lieutenant governor Rudy Boschwitz ascend to the governor’s job and appoint Anderson to fill Mondale’s term.

        Perpich. The other Rudy.

  • The way these things usually proceed is that after a first incident is revealed others step forward with their stories. This seems likely, since guys who act like this don’t usually only do it once – it’s an ongoing pattern. So while Franken may weather the storm and make it to Thanksgiving break, it will be difficult to stay longer if other incidents come to light.

  • elbaroc84

    I had already decided not to support Sen Fraken after his behavior as a Super Delegate, this information only confirms my previous opinon of him. Remember this isnt the first he’s had these types of problems.

    I think both of our Senator will be having problems because of their behavior as Super Delegates. It be nice if he’d resign so we could get someone in there without that luggage.

  • Gary F

    This will be fun to watch how the DFL and media spin this.

    Will we see the media go into character assignation mode on Tweeden?

    The longer they stretch this out the harder it’s going to be to keep the attention on Moore.

    Now that Hillary is done, can the Dems finally come forward and publicly acknowledge Bill’s history?

    I can’t wait to hear all the rationalizations why Al should stay!

    Just who would Dayton choose? One of the governor candidates or a tired retread like Ted Mondale?

    Start popping the popcorn, this will be fun to watch.

    • kevins

      Gary..ponder the indiscretions of our Republican brothers. Dems are novices at rationalization in comparison.

    • What should we do about that guy on the Supreme Court.

    • jon

      So we’ve now seen how Al spun this… he issued an apology… not a non-apology, not a deflection, but an actual apology.
      He didn’t point out that bill clinton did worse, or that trump did worse, or that Moore did worse, or that everyone was doing it, he didn’t rely on biblical justifications for men dominating women, he didn’t fall back on “just locker room talk” or even “it was just a joke” (ok he did say many of the jokes he used as a comedian were hurtful and offensive, but he also said that just being jokes doesn’t justify anything and then continued with a real apology)

      Man it was fun to watch the difference between how the Dem’s handled it vs. how the GOP has handled it.

      Maybe now that the GOP has seen some personal accountability they can take a hint and the “party of personal responsibility/accountability” can take some personal responsibility, and stop blaming everyone else* for their mistakes…. though I’ll opt not to hold my breath…
      Heck I’d settle for an admission that the GOP doesn’t know what personal accountability looks like much less how to act on it themselves (probably because the illegal immigrants or the Clinton’s came and took all the personal accountability from the GOP…)

      *Just kidding, we all know that the clintons are responsible for everything, except when Obama is responsible… but he is more popular so he doesn’t get blamed as much any more…

  • AL287

    Why are we not clamoring for the resignation of Donald J. Trump?

    Several women came forward with accusations of improper sexual advances, some of them with witnesses. Why did no one believe them a year ago but now suddenly many people believe all these women unequivocally?

    Is personal vindication more important than personal honesty?

    America showed it didn’t care about politicians’ sexual indiscretions when the impeachment of Clinton failed.

    Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were both given a pass by both the press and the public regarding their private affairs with numerous women.

    It’s only recently that we have learned the truth behind the rumors.

    Adultery used to be a private affair between the offender and the injured party and we are just now making it a litmus test for fitness for public office????

    First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:5

  • Postal Customer

    Franken goes if and only if Trump goes. What’s fair is fair.

    Either everybody resigns or nobody does.

    Getting to that level of power involves stepping on someone — sexually or otherwise.

    • kevins

      Concise and precise…thank you.

    • 212944

      Just suggested something similar to my spouse last night, though going a step further … all men in Congress out for, say, ten years … then we revisit.

      It’s a baby-with-the-bathwater solution, but methinks the bathwater is toxic beyond repair at this point.

    • Yirmin

      You continually miss the difference between Franken, Moore and Trump…. Trump says you can grope a woman but there is no proof he did grope any…. Moore is accused of groping a womand but there is no proof he did…. but with Franken he is accused of groping, there is photographic evidence he did, and he even apologized for doing it meaning he has admitted it…. Do you see the difference between Franken and the others? You have to give the benefit of the doubt to someone that is accused of doing something wrong, but Franken has admitted it removing any doubt that he did it.

  • kevins

    I have let this metabolize for a while. It still sucks, but I can’t get past the issue of degree. Franked was a comedian. Gags were his business. He had someone take a pic of a gag. I am glad there was a pic, because others get away with much more significant transgressions and because there is little more than allegation from women (who are marginalized in terms of veracity) the perps are uniformly able to lie about what they did. Franken has no way to do that.

    I think this woman was harmed. I think she is telling the truth. I think Franken should be genuinely sorry for this misjudgment about what is funny.

    I still see Franken as significantly more genuine that most other politicians, even in his apology to her. Resign…no. Apply standards of conduct to ALL elected officials…yes.

    Within the last few days, a City of Fargo employee took his own life (in Moorhead) after a complaint of sexual harassment was filed against him. The harassment was a matter of degree and that is not my opinion, but one shared by many, He is dead. Bad outcome.


    • Franken’s most serious transgression is what happened off stage.

      It’s awful about the Fargo employee.

      Going forward perhaps men should realize no degree of sexual harassment in the workplace is acceptable. Best way to avoid problems is to stick to a professional environment. Anything else isn’t worth it.

      • kevins

        I agree, but at least two are involved in a transaction, and there are subtle behaviors and words that have neutral meaning to one and significant meaning to the other. Kissing someone without an invitation is over the line. Joking about touching a sleeping woman’s breasts is over the line. Many times, words mean something, but intent and interpretation are not the same. That’s the rub.

        • I’d like to hear women’s perspective on this because when I hear it, it’s almost always a man saying it.

          • kevins

            True that…I have two adult daughters and not surprisingly, they have different takes on this.

          • kevins

            BTW, my wife of 37 years agrees with me, or should I say, I agree with her.

  • Dennis Johnson

    If Franken does decide to resign, his resignation speech should include an apology for poor judgement in using “locker room” behavior. And he should call on all politicians guilty of locker room behavior to also step down from office. We certainly wouldn’t want a double standard now, would we?

  • Gary F

    How would the media cover this if Al Franken were a Republican?

    • Oh, Gary. Don’t ever change, buddy.

      If you have a problem with my integrity, be brave enough to come right out and say it and be specific. Otherwise, move along .

    • Rob

      Let’s ask Roy Moore.

  • Jeff

    FWIW I have a daughter who interned for Franken a few years ago. I asked her if she ever heard of anything untoward he had done and she said no, never. On the whole she thinks he shouldn’t resign but resolve to become a advocate against harassment.

  • Caffiend

    For Democrats, a “heart-felt” and “sincere” apology is usually sufficient, plus, perhaps, “treatment” and some kind of “accountability program.” For Republicans, nothing less than resignation in complete disgrace and expulsion from public life will do.

  • bearfilm

    and does he maintain his pay and benefits or are those forfeit and that is why he is choosing to stay on in office?

  • Joe Vargas

    People are saying Ellison to replace… but I seriously doubt that… he won a congressional seat not a statewide seat, and his chances of winning statewide in 2018 general election is much less than one of the women who have won statewide including the Lt Gov. So although many far left progressives may be hoping for Ellison – it won’t be him… and if I am wrong… then the Republicans will have a good chance to pick up that seat in 2018 – after all MN is only a liberal state by a few points and can easily be put in play with a bad Dem candidate.

    • I see Pawlenty running. Gets outstate. Gets the suburb. The Iron Range is Trump territory now…. has all the money he needs via the banks and financial industry he’s been representing.