Washington Post: What If Al Franken Resigns?

Social media has all but melted down today over allegations that Sen. Al Franken groped and kissed radio personality Leeann Tweeden without consent on a 2006 USO tour. 

Franken recalls the incident differently than Tweeden but issued a lengthy apology and called for an ethics investigation on himself, while also expressing regret for churning out sexually inappropriate jokes for years as a comedian.

But will it be enough to save Franken’s senate seat? The Washington Post has already raised the possibility, if not likelihood, that the junior Minnesota senator may face expulsion or could resign in the current “political minefield.”

As of writing, this still seems fairly unlikely; Franken’s initial statement seems to indicate that he hopes to weather the storm. But just as there will be pressure on him from Republicans, there will also be members of his own party who’d prefer not to have to defend him against his allegations while excoriating Moore — and President Trump, who also faces multiple accusations of sexual misconduct. Does Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer want to have to rail against Moore and Trump knowing full well that the immediate response will be, “Then why didn’t you do anything about Franken?”

After all, it’s not like Democrats would lose the seat.

The paper ran readers through the political steps in the event Gov. Mark Dayton needed to announce Franken’s replacement.

Should Franken resign, the process to replace him goes like this:

  • Since it’s more than six weeks before the primary for that Senate seat, the governor of the state will appoint someone to fill the vacancy.
  • Franken’s not up for reelection until 2020, so there would be an election in 2018 to find someone to fill out the rest of his term.
  • In 2020, the winner of that election would stand for reelection, if he or she chose to.

While granting that a 2018 special election to replace Franken wouldn’t be a slam dunk for Democrats, the Post posits that the seat would likely remain in friendly hands.

The outcome of a 2018 special election isn’t entirely certain, but, unlike neighboring states, Democrats in Minnesota weathered the Trump surge last year to hand its electoral votes to Hillary Clinton by a narrow margin. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Franken’s peer, is also on the ballot; her seat is rated by the Cook Political Report as “solid Democratic.” An off-year election might normally be disadvantageous to the Democrats, but 2018 is shaping up to be a strong year for the party nationally because of the deep unpopularity of the president.

Clearly, the Democrats would rather not have to take the risk of putting Franken’s seat up for grabs, no matter how safe it might seem. But it’s not like Schumer would be losing a seat in a state with a Republican governor who voted for Trump in 2016. Franken could step down and allow his colleagues to save face.

It’s only hours into the accusations against Franken. But that’s all the longer it took for some in the political class in Washington to conclude the Minnesota senator may be expendable.

As of writing, this entire situation is about three hours old. Franken might well weather these allegations, just as Moore has shown no inclination to step away from his race to join the Senate. But there will be a lot of pressure from both Democrats and Republicans to use Franken as a counterweight to the Moore and Trump allegations, and given the relative safety for Democrats of booting him from office, that might mean he’s more at risk than one might otherwise expect.

Pushing for Franken’s ouster might even be politically popular among Democrats, considering the extent to which progressive voters have called for accountability on similar allegations against others.