In Franken's fall, sudden Senate pickup chance for GOP

Franken said Thursday he would resign, just a day after new allegations brought the number of women alleging he had groped or tried to kiss them to at least eight.

Posted: Dec 8, 2017 10:29 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Sen. Al Franken's departure from the Senate solves one problem for Democrats, demonstrating their will to push out one of their own when sexual harassment allegations pile up. Now they must worry about keeping one more vulnerable seat when they already had their hands full in next year's election.
Franken said Thursday he would resign, just a day after new allegations brought the number of women alleging he had groped or tried to kiss them to at least eight.
In a sometimes emotional speech delivered on the Senate floor, Franken said some of the accusations were false, but acknowledged he couldn't continue.
"I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator — nothing — has brought dishonor on this institution," Franken declared.
The former comedian who made his name on "Saturday Night Live" is the latest to fall in the national wave of sexual harassment allegations, coming just two days after the resignation of Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, who was the longest-serving member in the current House.
His rapid fall leaves Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to appoint a replacement to serve until at least 2018, when the state would hold an election to finish Franken's six-year term ending in 2020. Dayton said Thursday he expected to do so "in the next couple of days."
Franken's exit gives Republicans an opening to expand their reach in an already favorable Senate map — two dozen Democratic senators are up for re-election next year, including 10 in states that President Donald Trump carried in 2016. That difficult math raises the question of whether Dayton will appoint a temporary placeholder or try to give a Democrat a running start for the 2018 campaign.
His lieutenant governor, Tina Smith, has been most frequently mentioned for the temporary appointment. Smith is a trusted former chief of staff for Dayton and also ran former Vice President Walter Mondale's brief Senate campaign in 2002 after Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash. But Smith previously announced she wouldn't run for governor next year, suggesting she would be no more than a caretaker.
Dayton could also look to a pair of fellow Democratic statewide elected officials: Attorney General Lori Swanson or State Auditor Rebecca Otto. Otto is running for governor and Swanson is thinking about it; either could conceivably turn into a Senate candidate.
While Dayton weighed his choice, eyes were already turning to the 2018 race, especially among Republicans.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty — the last Republican to win a statewide election in Minnesota, in 2006 — was seen as a potential heavyweight contender in the GOP. Another possibility, former Sen. Norm Coleman, quickly ruled himself out.
The timing of Franken's departure is uncertain. Fellow Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Franken indicated he would officially step down sometime "by the end of the year." It's an abrupt end for someone who had been seen as coming into his own in Washington.
Franken, 66, had gained respect as a serious lawmaker in recent years and had even been mentioned in talk about the 2020 presidential race. But his downward spiral began Nov. 16, when Leeann Tweeden, now a Los Angeles radio anchor, accused him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour in Afghanistan.
Other allegations followed, including a woman who says Franken put his hand on her buttocks as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. Two women told the Huffington Post that Franken squeezed their buttocks at political events during his first campaign for the Senate in 2008. A fourth woman, an Army veteran, alleged Franken cupped her breast during a photo on a USO tour in 2003.
But Franken remained defiant in his parting speech, saying that "some of the allegations against me are simply not true" and disputing the details relayed by other accusers, as he had from the start.
And he pointedly noted that he was being forced out while Trump — who has been accused of worse offenses and bragged on a leaked "Access Hollywood" videotape of grabbing women by their genitalia — emerged unscathed. Trump and fellow Republicans have also endorsed Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct with them when they were teens and he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s.
"I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party," Franken said.
___
Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa. AP reporters Mary Clare Jalonick, Matthew Daly, Kevin Freking, Andrew Taylor and Alan Fram in Washington contributed.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 57162

Reported Deaths: 1660
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin18197820
Ramsey7047261
Dakota4049103
Anoka3410113
Stearns284220
Washington193843
Nobles17496
Olmsted163523
Scott141017
Mower10842
Rice10028
Blue Earth8595
Wright8205
Carver7922
Clay75240
Kandiyohi6771
Sherburne6577
St. Louis45319
Todd4202
Lyon4163
Freeborn3551
Steele3331
Nicollet32013
Benton3103
Watonwan2990
Winona24916
Crow Wing21313
Martin2045
Le Sueur2021
Beltrami2000
Chisago1821
Otter Tail1793
Goodhue1778
Cottonwood1730
Becker1471
Pipestone1439
McLeod1400
Unassigned14040
Polk1353
Itasca13412
Douglas1320
Waseca1300
Pine1280
Carlton1260
Dodge1230
Murray1221
Isanti1100
Chippewa991
Brown852
Faribault840
Meeker832
Morrison821
Wabasha820
Sibley802
Rock750
Koochiching743
Pennington731
Jackson700
Mille Lacs683
Cass622
Fillmore610
Renville605
Lincoln540
Swift521
Grant511
Yellow Medicine490
Roseau460
Pope450
Houston390
Norman370
Hubbard320
Redwood320
Marshall290
Kanabec281
Wilkin283
Aitkin270
Mahnomen241
Wadena230
Big Stone220
Red Lake200
Lake180
Stevens160
Clearwater150
Traverse100
Lac qui Parle60
Kittson30
Cook20
Lake of the Woods10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 46100

Reported Deaths: 887
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk9781203
Woodbury365651
Black Hawk302262
Linn214587
Johnson195915
Dallas179635
Buena Vista178612
Scott161512
Dubuque154929
Marshall139424
Pottawattamie122723
Story111714
Wapello85032
Muscatine83048
Webster7366
Crawford7213
Sioux6022
Cerro Gordo57917
Tama53929
Warren5341
Jasper45825
Wright4441
Plymouth4438
Louisa37814
Dickinson3754
Clinton3213
Washington28810
Hamilton2411
Boone2312
Franklin2256
Bremer1927
Clarke1883
Carroll1821
Emmet1812
Clay1711
Shelby1691
Hardin1660
Marion1550
Allamakee1504
Poweshiek1508
Benton1451
Jackson1411
Des Moines1392
Mahaska13617
Floyd1312
Guthrie1285
Jones1242
Cedar1201
Hancock1172
Butler1152
Buchanan1141
Henry1143
Pocahontas1141
Lyon1060
Madison1052
Clayton993
Cherokee981
Harrison980
Lee973
Taylor930
Humboldt921
Delaware911
Iowa901
Monona900
Winneshiek861
Mills830
Calhoun822
Fayette810
Sac810
Palo Alto800
Kossuth780
Osceola780
Jefferson770
Winnebago770
Mitchell760
Page760
Grundy741
Union721
Monroe677
Worth610
Chickasaw510
Davis501
Lucas504
Howard490
Cass481
Montgomery453
Appanoose433
Greene380
Fremont350
Van Buren331
Keokuk311
Ida290
Audubon281
Decatur220
Adair210
Ringgold211
Wayne181
Adams160
Unassigned00
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