… is anybody’s guess, but I have two supportable (and very different) hypotheses.
The first is short and sweet and I’ll give it to you straight.
Tweeden and Senator Franken get together, possibly with their families, and have a pow wow. They emerge from this to announce a newly formed organization to destroy the patriarchy in government. Franken throws his viability as Senator to the voters, and stays in the Senate, but the two of them launch a major campaign to rethink and rebuild gendered relationships at the levers of public power in America. All is well.
The second hypothesis is a bit different, and in this one, Franken resigns. Here’s why.
To understand this there are a few things you need to know about that have not to my knowledge been noted by the press or commentators, but that are very important.
Each US state has two senators, each elected for six year terms. Minnesota has Senator Klobuchar, who will be running for re-election during 2018. Senator Franken will be running for re-election in 2020. This means that Klobuchar has to campaign with a guy living under a cloud, or to avoid him, which is difficult because of the way they have campaigned in the past.
Franken is more liberal than Klobuchar. Franken appeals to voters in the Twin Cities and Klobuchar is more popular with voters out state. The state of Minnesota is largely divided into Twin Cities vs. outstate, with the former liberal and the latter conservative. Some will say that is an oversimplification, and it is, but note that Congressperson Keith Ellison represents the core of the Twin Cities and Michele Bachmann represented a big outstate district.
When one of our two senators runs, the other helps in their own zone. Senator Klobuchar campains with Franken outstate, and Senator Franken campaigns with Klobuchar in the cities. Franken explains to the extremely liberal people of South Minneapolis that he needs Amy, and they should overlook the fact that she says it is OK to hunt wolves. Klobuchar explains to the people outstate that she needs Al, never mind the fact that is a flaming libard. And so on. That’s how a state like Minnesota gets to have two such great Senators.
It might be better for Amy, the party, and the state, to jettison Al and run with a different strategy.
We are going to have a gubernatorial election in 2018, as two-term Democratic governor Mark Dayton will not seek re-election.
Minnesotan governors are in office for notoriously short periods of time, despite the absence of term limits. The governorship became a 4-year gig in 1958, and no governor ever served more than two terms consecutively since. More importantly, the last time we’ve had a single party in office for more than two term was a series of Republicans starting with Harold Stassen in 1939, and ending with Elmer Anderson in 1955.
Combining these last two facts, we normally would expect that the Republicans will take back the governorship of Minnesota in 2018.
(Remember the 2016 Presidential election? History said a Republican would win. Common sense said a Democrat would win. Who won?)
Minnesota Democrats (called locally DFLers) have been running some outstanding candidates for the DFL endorsement this year, and the Republicans have not gotten their acts together. It is widely thought that, with Trump in the White House, and the Minnesota Republicans behaving badly in various other ways, that the DFL, which is currently in the minority in both houses of the legislature, will probably take the state Senate, maybe the state House, and have a very good chance of taking the governorship.
But taking the governorship is not at all certain. Any DFLer running for governor in Minnesota right now is living with this very uncomfortable uncertainty.
If Franken resigns, Democratic Governor Mark Dayton appoints his replacement. He will replace Franken with a woman, obviously. If you look at the candidates running or very likely to run for Governor, for the DFL endorsement/primary, most of them are women, including one who is not officially running yet but will. Two of those, Rebecca Otto and Lori Swanson, are constitutional officers. Otto is the Auditor, a position Dayton once held, and that is seen as a pre-governor position by many. Swanson is the Attorney General. Both are widely liked and very well regarded in their parties, across the state (except by some Republicans, of course), and nationally. Both would make excellent Senators.
If Franken leaves the office of Senate prior to June 30th (I may be off by one or two days on that date) 2018, there will be an election in 2018 for that seat. Presumably the appointee will run for that office. If the vacancy begins after that date, the election will be the following November (2019).
Here is a very important added point folks outside of Minnesota may not know about and need to understand. Within the state, it has suddenly become apparent that there is a lot — A LOT — of horrible behavior by men in the Minnesota state house. Lots of physical sexual attack, harassment, etc. by elected legislators (and others, I think) against women, including the elected women in the legislature. This is all suddenly coming to light locally, just as it has been nationally for Hollywood and other venues. The Governor has come out with strong condemnation of that sort of thing, and you can expect him and everyone else in the state to be on the war path against patriarchy-sanctioned bad male behavior against women. If Senator Al Franken is a piece of bread, this situation is a Sunbeam toaster.
Putting this all together, we have enhanced pressure for Franken to commit to leaving the US Senate. We have a strategic reason for him to leave in several months rather than right away, but that would be difficult. Unless, of course, there was a lengthy (as they always are) investigation. Insisting on an investigation may even be a way of controlling timing.
Ideally, from a Minnesota DFL point of view, Franken would leave on July 4th weekend or so, just about six weeks before the primary in which Otto, Swanson, and the others, are running. Dayton picks one of them to be Senator, the other goes on to win the Primary, and that person becomes governor.
It does not have to be either of those two women sent to Washington. It could be Erin Murphy or Tina Liebling, also running for the DFL nomination to run for governor. I don’t think the governor would appoint Tina, she is fairly anti-Dayton in her current campaign. Erin maybe, she’s well respected, but I have no idea how she stands with Dayton. It could be his Lt. Governor, Tina Smith.
It won’t be any of the men running, including Congressman Tim Walz, who has largely unqualified himself for statewide DFL support by being too close to the NRA in an era of concern over guns, and too easily sided, in the past, with anti-environmental causes. Also, he and the other men in the race are not women at this time, and I really think Dayton has to appoint a woman, would appoint a woman, and he has no shortage of high caliber talent who are women.
At the moment, Otto is the head and shoulders above the rest best candidate in the governor’s race, on all the issues, and it would be a shame to see the state lose her to DC. But, it would be a huge gain for the country. On the other hand, Swanson being moved out of the race would make it more likely for Otto to win in Minnesota in a year which is jinxed by the historical trend.
Time will tell.