Franken still groping for a reprieve.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to appoint his lieutenant governor and close ally, Tina Smith, to Al Franken’s seat if the Democratic senator resigns on Thursday, three people familiar with the Democratic governor’s thinking said.
But that appointment would be just the start of a huge upheaval in Minnesota. Part of the reason Smith could be heading to the Senate, the sources said, is because she has indicated no interest in running for Congress in the past and would not run for the remainder of Franken’s term, which expires in 2020, in a 2018 special election. That would clear the way for a wide-open Democratic primary next year if Franken steps down.
Franken’s sudden fall under a deluge of sexual harassment allegations has prompted Democrats to suddenly consider a fast-approaching special election for a once-safe seat — and given Republicans an unexpected opportunity in a state President Donald Trump lost by just 1 point in 2016. But installing Smith or another placeholder in the seat would separate the appointment from potentially fractious Democratic primary politics, giving other Democrats the opportunity to fight on a level playing field in a special primary. Additionally, appointing a woman to fill Franken’s role would serve as a symbolic rebuke to Franken in the wake of the allegations against him, Minnesota Democrats pointed out.
“[Smith] really gets Minnesota, she gets the players, she has great built-up relationships,” said a Democratic operative with long experience in Minnesota. “She makes practical sense and she would be a good bridge-builder.”