The following was originally published Thursday in the Star Tribune's Morning Hot Dish politics newsletter. Subscribe here.
It's Pearl Harbor day and now a day that will go down in infamy in Minnesota history, as Sen. Al Franken is expected to resign after the majority of his Senate Democratic colleagues said it was time for him to go after a seventh woman said he acted improperly, an allegation he has denied. There was significant pushback from Franken staff when MPR and then the Star Tribune both reported he was set to resign. I suspect that was to prevent a full-on feeding frenzy in the national press before today, although it's always possible supporters started calling and texting, telling him to fight on and he had a change of heart. If he's changed his mind, then that's a huge story, but the pressure will only intensify, his pariah status among his colleagues -- and Minnesota DFLers -- grow more acute. Our story.
Franken's office said this morning that he will "deliver a speech from the Senate floor at" 10:45 a.m. Central.
Gov. Mark Dayton will name a replacement, and he'll do so quickly, as soon as today or Friday. It will likely be Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, who will be a caretaker of the office and not run in 2018. The thinking is that there's no DFLer Dayton could name that would clear the field for 2018. But if he were to attempt to do so, Minnesotans would reject any attempt at an anointment as heavy handed. Just look at what happened in 1978.
The bitterness between Sanders and Clinton forces in the DFL is still raw, and it's best left to the delegates and/or voters to decide who will be the DFL nominee. My story. This creates a lieutenant governor vacancy, and let's not forget that Dayton has survived cancer, two back surgeries and a couple public collapses. (Morbid joke from a DFLer: "We'd be a podium away from a GOP government.") The state Constitution is pretty clear that the president of the Senate, Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, becomes lieutenant governor. Remember the Senate is 34-33 Republican majority, so can Fischbach be both senator and lieutenant governor? Or is there a special election? Lawyers scrambling as we speak. It's a safe GOP seat but special elections are always weird.
Upshot: A prestigious statewide office is suddenly open, so you'll hear lots of names, some unfamiliar. State Sen. Melisa Franzen sounds like she's running (though she joked that I better not tell her husband). U.S. Reps. Ellison, McCollum, Nolan. AG Lori Swanson. State Rep. Ilhan Omar. I heard U.S. Rep. Walz and Mayor Chris Coleman, who are currently running for governor. (Didn't hear Walz/Coleman from their circles, so take it for what it's worth.) On the Republican side, Tim Pawlenty may be a better fit for the Senate race than another run at governor. Norm Coleman may be looking at a restoration.
In 2018, we are looking at crucial special elections in the early months; four and possibly five highly competitive U.S. House races that could determine the majority; a governor's race with no incumbent; the U.S. Senate re-elect of a potential presidential candidate; and, an open U.S. Senate seat. And, oh yeah, if Republicans keep the state House and win the governor's race, they control state government for the first time in half a century.