MN Gov. Dayton Still Undecided On Appointment To Fill Al Franken Seat

Governor Mark Dayton spoke about latest developments in the Justine Damond shooting at the capitol Wednesday July 19, 2017 in St. Paul, MN. ] JERRY HOLT •
Jerry Holt/Star Tribune

Just minutes after Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) announced on the Senate floor Thursday that he would resign, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) said he has “not yet decided” who he will appoint to fill the embattled senator’s vacated seat.

“Events have unfolded quickly; thus, I have not yet decided on my appointment to fill this upcoming vacancy. I expect to make and announce my decision in the next couple days,” he said in a statement, which comes amid multiple reports that he plans to tap his Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to serve for the next year. Smith is considered a close ally to the governor and reportedly has no interest in running for Congress in a 2018 special election.

Franken’s resignation follows weeks of public allegations from multiple women that the senator forcibly kissed or groped them without their consent in the past. Franken has apologized to one of the women, who shared a photo of Franken appearing to reach toward her chest while she was sleeping. He has also apologized to other accusers, but has combatted or denied other claims.

On Wednesday, nearly a dozen female Democratic senators released statements calling on Franken to resign. Other Democratic senators quickly followed suit.

During his emotional speech on the Senate floor on Thursday, Franken said he was resigning his seat, but “I’m not giving up my voice.” He expressed a desire for all women be heard and have their experiences taken seriously. He said that some of the allegations against him are “simply not true” and “others I remember very differently.”

He also pointed out the irony of President Donald Trump — “who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault” — sitting in the White House and “a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls” running for a seat in the Senate “with the full support of his party.”

In his statement following Franken’s resignation, Dayton said he extended “my deepest regret to the women who have had to endure their unwanted experiences with Senator Franken,” and said his “heart goes out to Al and his family.”

He is very smart, very hard-working, and very committed to Minnesota. I wish him well in his future endeavors,” he said.

Smith released a statement alongside Dayton, thanking Franken for his service while also condemning sexual harassment, which she said “can never be tolerated in our politics, our businesses, or anywhere else.”

It was not immediately clear when Franken’s last day in the Senate will be. The governor will name someone to serve for the next year and a special election will be held in November 2018. That person will serve for the remainder of Franken’s term, which ends in 2020.