If Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) heeds the advice of more than 30 of his colleagues and resigns on Thursday after weeks of facing allegations of sexual misconduct, Minnesota’s governor will likely tap his female lieutenant governor to replace Franken in the Senate, according to reports in Politico and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
According to people familiar with the matter, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to appoint Lt. Gov. Tina Smith if Franken steps down. Sources told Politico and the Star Tribune that Smith is a close ally of the governor who would have no interest in running for Congress in a 2018 special election, which would make way for a open Democratic primary next year.
“I feel in this environment, and given what’s happening … a woman would be very appropriate,” Minnesota state Rep. Frank Hornstein told the Star Tribune.
Dayton’s office did not immediately respond to TPM’s requests for comment.
The news comes as speculation grows over Franken’s future in Congress. He plans to make a statement about his decision during a speech on the Senate floor Thursday just before noon.
His office pushed back against reports Wednesday night that he had already decided to resign, despite calls from dozens of colleagues and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to step down. Just before noon on Wednesday, numerous female Democratic senators released a wave of statements calling on Franken to resign. Other Democratic senators quickly followed suit.
So far, seven women have come forward alleging Franken forcibly kissed or groped them without their consent in the past. Two of those women spoke out as recently as Wednesday.
Many of Franken’s female colleagues said Wednesday that while they value Franken’s friendship, the mounting allegations are a sign of a pattern of problematic behavior. Franken has apologized for some of the accusations and combatted the stories of others. After the first woman, Leeann Tweeden, shared her story, Franken asked for the Senate Ethics Committee to launch a probe into his behavior.