Replacement? Al Franken hasn’t gone anywhere yet, and depending on what transpires tonight in Alabama, he might not go anywhere at all. Nevertheless, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton plans a news conference for tomorrow to announce his choice for an interim successor if and when Franken does leave the US Senate:
The Wednesday news conference will end days of speculation about whom Dayton would send to Washington and also whether the person intends to run for the office or be a caretaker until the special election in Nov. 2018.
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, who has been a close confidante of Dayton since his 2010 election, has emerged as a leading contender, though questions have arisen about whether she would run for the office in 2018 and, if she wins, again for the full six-year term in 2020.
This might turn out to be moot if Roy Moore wins tonight and Franken decides to stick around, even for a little while. Franken might delay a resignation to force Republicans to expel Moore once he gets seated. What better way to rehabilitate his reputation, both at home and with progressives, than to challenge Moore’s standing in the Senate with his own self-deportation from the chamber? If Republicans never get around to expelling Moore — which isn’t a likely outcome — Franken will have scored enough points to make it through the end of his term, even with that Leeann Tweeden photograph haunting him and fellow Democrats.
Let’s not forget the precedent of former senator Larry Craig, who pledged to resign after his arrest for importuning at the Minneapolis Airport and then reneged. Specifically, Craig wanted to get due process in the Ethics Committee first, which sounds a little familiar. Even though the committee concluded that he had indeed committed the offenses to which Craig pled guilty — and that he had improperly used campaign funds to defend himself in the case — the Senate took no action to remove him. Resignations are not binding until they are fully executed.
In this case, that may overthink reality, though. Franken may not be thinking about sticking around at all, regardless of what happens tonight. Reportedly, Franken wants some time to wrap up a few issues and to ensure that his staff makes it through the holidays before potentially getting laid off. A quick appointment would negate the latter concern, so Franken could submit his formal resignation as soon as Dayton makes the appointment. Whoever it is will need Franken’s staff to come up to speed as quickly as possible anyway.
Assuming Franken does resign, who should Dayton appoint? Amy Klobuchar insisted yesterday that it doesn’t have to be a woman or someone of color, demands pressed by DFL activists her in the state:
There is major legislation that needs to be worked on regarding taxes, budgets and the farm bill “that would greatly help our state,” Klobuchar said. The children’s health care bill alone, she said, could almost erase the state’s budget deficit.
Asked about the appointment of a woman or a woman of color, Klobuchar said, “I think it’s really important that the person is qualified to do the work.” While there is a need for more female senators, “There are plenty of men and women who could fill the seat again.
“People should wait and see,” she said.
The problem for Dayton will be if Franken makes them wait and see whether he’s departing at all. That makes a Tina Smith appointment even more likely. Unlike most of the other potential candidates, Smith had no other plans to run for office next year. Neither Lori Swanson or Rebecca Otto can afford to twist in the wind and potentially miss the window for the 2018 gubernatorial race or other opportunities. Ditto for state legislators who might be on Dayton’s short list, and for current members of the House like Betsy McCollum and Keith Ellison.
Besides, the Wednesday choice for announcement gives a big hint that Dayton’s choosing a woman in these scandal-plagued times. Michael Brodkorb notes the optics in play:
— Michael Brodkorb (@mbrodkorb) December 12, 2017
You bet it does. Assuming Franken leaves, that is.