Dec. 11, 2017 — Continuing the spate of recent congressional resignations for sexual impropriety, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), as news reports predicted, announced late last week that he will resign his seat in several weeks.
The action means Gov. Mark Dayton (D) will now appoint a successor. Speculation suggests that he will name Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D), his former chief of staff, to the federal position and it is believed that she will serve as a caretaker. If all of this proves true, we will have another open Senate race in 2018. In any event, voters will choose the individual to serve the remainder of Franken’s term in the upcoming regular vote. This particular Class II seat will again come before voters for a full six-year term in 2020.
Some in the news media believed that Gov. Dayton would have made his appointment announcement by the end of last week, but the Minnesota chief executive did not do so, saying he would make a decision in the next few days. This could be because Franken did not resign immediately, or he has not fully committed to naming Lt. Gov. Smith.
Since Minnesota voting history has improved for Republicans over the last few election cycles, an open seat Senate race in the Land of 10,000 Lakes could well become competitive. Immediately, Republicans started mentioning former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) as a possible special election candidate.
Though Minnesota has a primary – the 2018 nomination election is scheduled for Aug. 14 – in reality, the parties nominate by caucus. Republicans will meet in a statewide convention sometime in March with Democrats following at a date to be scheduled in the succeeding month. Though it is possible for candidates to challenge the convention action, such rarely happens in Minnesota politics. Assuming Smith is appointed and doesn’t run for the remaining portion of the term, we can expect a large number of candidates competing in both party conventions.
Admitting to inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature, eight-term Arizona congressman Trent Franks (R-Peoria/Glendale) announced that he, too, will resign his seat setting up yet another special election.
Gov. Doug Ducey (R) will call the vote for some point early next year. The winner will then undoubtedly seek a full term in the regular election cycle, which features a late primary (Aug. 28).
The 8th District contains part of the city of Glendale, and the communities of Peoria, West Sun City, Surprise, El Mirage, Litchfield Park, and Anthem. It supported President Trump with a 58-37 percent margin. Mitt Romney carried the CD, with a stronger 63-37 percent spread. Rep. Franks has averaged 63.5 percent of the vote in his eight congressional elections, and faced only minor party candidates in the last two general elections.
The surprise announcement will cause many potential candidates in both parties to begin assessing their chances of running in the special election.
While Democrats suffered a political setback with the Franken resignation, they found themselves benefitting greatly in the Volunteer State Senate race.
Former governor and previous two-term Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen (D) surprised the political world and issued a video late last week featuring him announcing that he will enter the open 2018 US Senate race. The move was unexpected in that Bredesen had previously said he would not run, only to begin backtracking his original statements several weeks ago. Responding to overtures from national party leaders, the former two-term governor indicated that he would reconsider his original position to stay out. Even though he made that comment, it was commonly believed he would not make the race.
Those who believed the 74-year-old Bredesen would sit on the political sidelines were proved wrong yesterday, and Democrats scored a strong recruit. In his announcement video, the ex-governor reminded the listeners of his record – leaving office with a stronger state budget than when he began – and extolled his history as mayor of Nashville, particularly in helping to bring the Tennessee Titans (NFL) and Nashville Predators (NHL) to the state’s capital city, as well as his career as an entrepreneur as founder and CEO of the HealthAmerica insurance company that grew to more than 6,000 employees.
The Republican side is likely to feature a two-way race between Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) and former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County). Though Bredesen has a strong record, he has not been on the ballot since 2006 and the state has moved decidedly more Republican since his days as a successful political figure. Still, the Democrats have at least put this state, which should be safely Republican, into play for the 2018 election cycle.