Tag Archives: Minnesota

Pawlenty Returns as Minnesota
Gubernatorial Candidate

By Jim Ellis

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty announced late last week that he will again run for the office he once retired from.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty announced late last week that he will again run for the office he once retired from.

April 9, 2018 — Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who briefly became a presidential candidate in 2012, ventured back into the active campaign world late last week. Though routinely indicating that he had “retired” from elective politics after serving eight years as the state’s governor and then dipping his toe into the presidential campaign waters, Pawlenty is now again an active political candidate.

The Minnesota gubernatorial race is an open contest. Though the state does not impose term limits on its governor, Democratic incumbent Mark Dayton has chosen to retire after eight years in office. Prior to winning the governor’s office, Dayton served one term in the United States Senate.

But Pawlenty’s run will not be an easy one. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson (R), who held Gov. Dayton to a 50-45 percent re-election victory in 2014, pledged to continue his own campaign saying that, “Pawlenty has never gotten over 46 percent of the vote in a statewide election, even after four years of being governor, and that was before a controversial second term, before he made $10 million as a Washington, D.C. lobbyist, and he publicly trashed Donald Trump a month before Election Day.”

Minnesota politics features a major state endorsing convention in June before the August primary. Most of the time, candidates who do not receive enough delegate support to win an official state party endorsement usually end their campaigns and support the one who did secure the backing. Such unity may not appear in this Republican battle, however. It is unclear if Pawlenty will even enter the convention because precinct caucuses to choose state delegates have been underway since February and Johnson has fared well in early straw polls. Should Pawlenty force a primary, which appears to be his ultimate choice, it is clear that there will be an ensuing battle between he and Commissioner Johnson for the nomination.

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Senate Match-Ups Forming

By Jim Ellis

April 2, 2018
— Only two primaries are in the books, but already we appear to have clear Senate match-ups forming in as many as 14 statewide races.

2018-elections-open-seatsBelow are the races that look set as general election campaigns. Those headed for serious primary battles are not included on this list.

In alphabetical order, the following are the impending general election contests:

Arizona: Assuming Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson) repels her primary challenge from the right, the Grand Canyon State general election will feature McSally and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) in what will be one of the premier Senate contests in the country this year.

California: It appears we are again headed for a double-Democratic general election in the Golden State. Sen. Dianne Feinstein should have little trouble dispensing with state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles).

Florida: With Gov. Rick Scott (R) scheduling an announcement for April 9, it looks like the long-anticipated contest between the two-term governor and incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will come to fruition.

Minnesota: Appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D) will be running to fill the remaining two years of resigned Sen. Al Franken’s (D) term. State Sen. Karen Housley (R-St. Mary’s County) immediately declared her candidacy and, so far, she appears headed for the Republican nomination. Neither woman has run statewide before, so this campaign has the prospect of turning highly competitive especially with Minnesota moving rightward in the past few elections.

Mississippi: Developments within the past two weeks are yielding a second Mississippi Senate race for the 2018 election cycle. With Agriculture & Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) already being designated to replace retiring Sen. Thad Cochran (R) when he leaves office in April, she will draw serious opposition from state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville). If no candidate obtains majority support in the Nov. 6th vote, the top two finishers will run-off three weeks later.

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Retirement Mode Returns

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 13, 2018 — After a respite from House retirements for a little more than a week, yet another announcement came on Friday.

Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan (D), retiring. | Facebook

Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan (D), retiring. | Facebook

Veteran Minnesota Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/ Duluth) made public a decision not to seek a fourth term from his rural northeastern swing CD, MN-8, becoming the 54th US representative not to stand for re-election and the 17th Democrat in this category.

Nolan’s retirement decision makes what was already a toss-up 2018 election campaign even more interesting. In the last two political contests, the congressman barely defeated Republican businessman Stewart Mills, 48-47 percent and 50.1 – 49.6 percent, respectively in 2014 and ’16, making MN-8 one of the most competitive districts in the country during that time span.

The presidential vote gives us a clue into the district’s transition. During the Obama years, the Democratic nominee/president, won here with 53-44 and 52-46 percent margins in 2008 (against John McCain) and 2012 (opposite Mitt Romney). But, in 2016, President Trump crushed Hillary Clinton with a 54-39 percent victory spread.

The Nolan retirement move marks the second time he is leaving the House after serving three consecutive terms. Originally elected back in 1974 from the 6th District, which was then and is today a more rural/suburban seat anchored in the northern Minneapolis-St. Paul region, the congressman chose not to seek re-election in 1980. He was out of elective politics for 32 years, until he returned to Congress in 2012 from the previously solid farm-labor Democratic district in Minnesota’s upper northeastern sector.

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An Open Review – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 6, 2018 — With so many House retirements coming into focus within the past several weeks, it is a good time to review the list of 53 districts heading into their next election without an incumbent on the ballot.

Of the 53, Republicans currently hold 37 seats versus just 16 for the Democrats. Here’s the breakdown of how things look regarding all 53 seats right now:

2018-elections-open-seats

  • Safe Republican (19)
  • Likely Republican (6)
  • Likely Democrat (6)
  • Safe Democrat (6)
  • Lean Republican (5)
  • Lean Democrat (3)
  • Toss-up (8)

This configuration could change drastically if the Pennsylvania map is re-drawn in a court-ordered redistricting. The state Supreme Court has declared the Keystone State map a political gerrymander and has ordered a new plan drawn by Feb. 15.

The state Senate President Pro Tempore is responding, however, that the legislature will not comply with the court order to turn over statistical data need to draw a new map because the state court did not cite the legal provisions violated in making the current plan a gerrymander. Additionally, the US Supreme Court is sending signals that it may try to involve itself even though this case is filed against the Pennsylvania Constitution and not its federal counterpart. We can count on major action coming here within the next several days.

Furthermore, the US Supreme Court is in the process of deciding the Wisconsin political gerrymandering case, which will also affect active lawsuits in Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia; in Pennsylvania, the political gerrymandering lawsuit realm is not directly part of this group because its case is filed within the state court system. But the Republicans have petitioned the federal high court to look at this case for other legal reasons.

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Two Major Pre-Announcements

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 5, 2018 — A pair of major Republican figures yesterday made public that likely candidate declarations will be forthcoming in mid-February.

Mitt Romney | Facebook

Mitt Romney | Facebook

In Utah, a spokesperson for former Republican presidential nominee and ex-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney says the latter is scheduling a major announcement for Feb. 15. Though stopping short of saying that Romney will announce his candidacy for the seat that veteran Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) is vacating, it would be virtually preposterous for someone to schedule an event in advance only to announce that he would not be running.

Several states to the east, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), while in mid-January declined to enter the state’s special US Senate election to oppose appointed incumbent Tina Smith (D), is calling together past supporters for a Feb. 12 meeting to access his chances of again running for governor. Since the Republican field appears weak at this point, Pawlenty entering the race would quickly make him the favorite for the party nomination, at the very least.

Once Romney enters the Senate race, he will be a virtual lock to win the election. A University of Utah poll conducted for the Salt Lake Tribune (Jan. 15-18; 803 registered Utah voters) found the former presidential candidate jumping out to a huge 64-19 percent lead over Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson (D), the major announced Democratic candidate. Romney was scoring 85 percent loyalty among Republicans, attracting 55 percent of Independents, and 18 percent of Democrats.

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Minnesota Becoming a Battleground

minnesota-congressional-districtsBy Jim Ellis

Jan. 22, 2018 — A new political poll is providing more evidence that Minnesota is very much in play for the coming election. Analysts were surprised in 2016 when President Trump came within one percentage point of topping Hillary Clinton in the state, but that pattern seems to be holding, at least according to this latest data.

The last time Minnesota voted Republican in a presidential race was to re-elect President Richard Nixon in 1972, thus making this state the most consistently Democratic domain in terms of presidential election victories. Since the days when Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy represented Minnesota in the Senate, Republicans have only elected four senators during that stretch of 70 years. Their record of electing governors is a bit better, with seven individuals becoming the state chief executive during the same seven-decade time span.

Building upon President Trump’s strong showing and two Democratic House members, Reps. Tim Walz (D-Mankato) and Rick Nolan (D-Crosby/Duluth), winning re-election with 50.3 and 50.2 percent, respectively, the new Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Minnesota Poll (released Jan. 17; 800 registered Minnesota voters) suggests that we could again see similarly close results later this year.

While five different pollsters have released national generic vote congressional data since the first of the year giving Democrats an advantage from five to 17 points, the Star Tribune is producing much different numbers for the Minnesota electorate. (Quinnipiac University appears to be the outlier here with polls showing Dem advantages of 11 and 17 points, the only pollster to see a double-digit margin; they were thought to be the outlier in the Virginia governor’s race, too, but ended up being closest to the final result.)

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Senate Candidates 2018 – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 18, 2018 — We continue with our two-part series reviewing the announced candidate status in each state. Yesterday, Minnesota former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) announced that he would not enter the special election against appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D). Therefore, the second Minnesota seat will be re-stated:

Minnesota: Appointed Sen. Tina Smith (D) – seeking election
Candidate Filing Deadline: June 5, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 14, 2018
• Karin Housley (R) – State Senator; Attorney
• Tom Emmer (R) – US Representative; 6th District; 2010 Governor nominee – possible candidate
• Michele Bachmann (R) – Former congresswoman; former presidential candidate – possible candidate

New Jersey: Sen. Bob Menendez (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: April 2, 2018
State Primary: June 5, 2018
• Bob Hugin (R) – Pharmaceutical company CEO – possible candidate
2 Minor Democratic candidates
2 Minor Republican candidates
1 Independent candidate

New Mexico: Sen. Martin Heinrich (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: Feb. 6, 2018
State Primary: June 5, 2018
• Mick Rich (R) – State Labor Commissioner

New York: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Process Ends: April 19, 2018
State Primary: June 26, 2018
1 Minor Democratic candidates
3 Minor Republican candidates

North Dakota: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: April 9, 2018
State Primary: June 12, 2018
• Tom Campbell (R) – State Senator; agri-business owner
• Rick Berg (R) – Former at-large US Representative
• Gary Emineth (R) – Former ND Republican Party chairman

Ohio: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: Feb. 7, 2018
State Primary: May 8, 2018
Michael Gibbons (R) – Venture capitalist
• Jim Renacci (R) – US Representative; 16th District
• Jim Tressel (R) – Youngstown State U President; former football coach, Ohio State University – possible candidate
• J.D. Vance (R) – Venture capitalist; author – possible candidate

Pennsylvania: Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: March 6, 2018
State Primary: May 15, 2018
• Paul Addis (R) – Energy company executive
• Cynthia Ayers (R) – Former National Security Agency staff member
• Lou Barletta (R) – US Representative; 11th District
• Jim Christiana (R) – State Representative
3 Minor Democratic candidates
3 Minor Republican candidates
1 Independent candidate

Rhode Island: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: June 27, 2018
State Primary: Sept. 12, 2018
• Bob Flanders (R) – Former state Supreme Court justice
• Bobby Nardolillo (R) – State representative
1 Independent candidate

Tennessee: Sen. Bob Corker (R) – Retiring – Open Seat
Candidate Filing Deadline: April 5, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 2, 2018
• Marsha Blackburn (R) – US Representative; 7th District
• Stephen Fincher (R) – Former US Representative; 8th District
• Phil Bredesen (D) – Former governor; former Nashville mayor
4 Minor Republican candidates
1 Minor Democratic candidate

Texas: Sen. Ted Cruz (R) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: Completed December 11, 2018
State Primary: March 6, 2018
Run-off Election: May 22, 2018
• Beto O’Rourke (D) – US Representative; 16th District
• Bruce Jacobson (R) – Evangelical Cable TV executive
2 Minor Democratic candidates
3 Minor Republican candidates
5 Libertarian candidates

Utah: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) – Retiring – Open Seat
Candidate Filing Deadline: March 15, 2018
State Primary: June 26, 2018
• Dan McCay (R) – State representative – possible candidate
• Evan McMullin (R) – Former Independent presidential candidate – possible candidate
• Mitt Romney (R) – Former GOP presidential nominee; ex-MA governor – possible candidate
• Chris Stewart (R) – US Representative; 2nd District – possible candidate
• Jenny Wilson (D) – Salt Lake County councilwoman
1 Minor Republican candidate
2 Minor Democratic candidates
1 Libertarian candidate

Virginia: Sen. Tim Kaine (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: March 29, 2018
State Primary: June 12, 2018
• Nick Freitas (D) – State Delegate
• E.W. Jackson Sr. (R) – Minister; former lieutenant governor nominee
• Corey Stewart (R) – Pince William Co Bd Chairman; 2017 Governor candidate
• Jim Gilmore (R) – Former governor; ex-Senate & presidential candidate – possible candidate
1 Minor Republican candidate

Vermont: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: May 31, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 14, 2018
1 Minor Democratic Candidate
1 Independent Candidate

Washington: Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: May 18, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 7, 2018
1 Minor Democratic candidate
1 Libertarian candidate
3 Independent candidates

West Virginia: Sen. Joe Manchin (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: Jan. 27, 2018
State Primary: May 8, 2018
• Don Blankenship (R) – Former coal company CEO; convicted felon
• Evan Jenkins (R) – US Representative; 3rd District
• Patrick Morrisey (R) – Attorney General
• Paula Jean Swearingen (D) – Environmental activist
6 Minor Republican candidates
2 Minor Democratic candidates

Wisconsin: Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D) – seeking election
Candidate Filing Deadline: June 1, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 14, 2018
• Kevin Nicholson (R) – Businessman
• Leah Vukmir (R) – State Senator
• Eric Hovde (R) – Venture capitalist; 2012 Senate candidate – possible candidate
4 Minor Republican candidates
1 Constitution Party candidate
1 Veterans Party candidate
1 Independent candidate

Wyoming: Sen. John Barrasso (R) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: June 1, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 21, 2018
• Gary Trauner (D) – Former Teton County School Board Chair; ex-congressional nominee (2006; ’08)
• Foster Freiss (R) – Mutual Fund founder; GOP donor – possible candidate
• Erik Prince (R) – Security firm founder – possible candidate


Major Sources:
• Politics1.com political blog
• Ballotpedia.com website
• State Elections offices

Senate Candidates 2018 – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 17, 2018 — As we continue setting the stage for the 2018 midterms now that we are in the actual election year, in a two-part series, we review the announced candidate status in each state, since much has changed in the past few weeks.

Arizona: Sen. Jeff Flake (R) – Retiring – Open Seat
Candidate Filing Deadline: May 30, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 28, 2018
• Joe Arpaio (R) – former Sheriff, Maricopa County
• Martha McSally (R) – US Representative; 2nd District
• Kelli Ward (R) – former state Senator; 2016 US Senate candidate
• Kyrsten Sinema (D) – US Representative; 9th District
3 Minor Republican candidates
5 Minor Democratic candidates
1 Libertarian candidate
1 Green candidate

California: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: March 9, 2018
State Primary: June 5, 2018
Jungle Primary: Top two candidates advance to general election
• Kevin de Leon (D) – State Senate President
• Erin Cruz (R) – Radio Talk Show host
5 Minor Democratic candidates
6 Minor Republican candidates
6 Independent candidates

Connecticut: Sen. Christopher Murphy (D) – seeking re-election
Candidate Filing Deadline: June 8, 2018
State Primary: Aug. 14, 2018
• Ann-Marie Adams (D) – Journalist
• Tony Hwang (R) – State Senator – possible candidate
2 Minor Republican candidates

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New Year House Preview

US-House-of-Representatives-balance-of-power-January-2018By Jim Ellis

Jan. 8, 2018 — Continuing our federal race outlook to set the political stage in this first week of the actual midterm election year, we now turn to the House races.

Republicans have a 24-seat margin (counting their three vacant seats that will go to special election in the early part of this year: PA-18, AZ-8, and OH-12), and though Democrats and most in the media claim that a new majority is just around the corner, a race-by-race House analysis shows that the road to converting the majority remains difficult to attain. This is so for several key reasons, not the least of which is the typical House incumbent retention factor. In 2016 the rate hit 97 percent (377 victories for the 389 House members who ran for re-election).

Additionally, even though President Trump’s job approval rating is historically low, we must remember that he won the 2016 national election with a personal approval index no higher than his present positive to negative ratios. And, even though congressional approval was well below 20 percent for the entire 2016 election year, Republicans lost only six House seats from their previous modern era record majority of 247 that was attained in the 2014 election.

When we have seen major seat changes occur in past elections, the winning party has done well in converting open seats. For the fourth election cycle in a row, the 2018 House cycle features an above average quantity of incumbent-less US House campaigns – the current number is 45, counting the two latest announced retirees, Reps. Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Gregg Harper (R-MS).

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New Year Senate Preview – Part II

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 5, 2018 — Continuing our New Year’s preview, today we look at the 2018 Senate races from the Democrats’ perspective.

THE DEMOCRATS

Sen. Claire McKaskill | (Facebook)

Sen. Claire McKaskill | (Facebook)

Because they are now defending 26 of the 34 in-cycle seats, with the addition of the Minnesota special election, the Dems must primarily develop a solid defense before venturing into attack mode. If they are to have any chance of gaining a 51-49 majority, they will realistically have to win all 26 of the incumbent and open seat races they are forced to risk. This includes three contests already considered toss-up campaigns: Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill likely facing Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), Sen. Joe Donnelly in the Indiana race, and the budding Florida campaign likely between Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott.

Regardless of whom Sen. Donnelly ultimately faces in the Hoosier State, he will draw a top-tier opponent. Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Brownsburg/Lafayette) and Luke Messer (R-Greensburg/Muncie) battle for the Republican senatorial nomination, and they also face a credible third challenger in former state Rep. Mike Braun (R-Jasper). Braun has the strong ability to finance his own campaign, thus allowing him to adequately compete with the two congressmen. Since he has the promise of becoming his own force, Braun could conceivably strike a chord with the Republican electorate if the two congressmen continue fighting amongst themselves and allow him to slip by both of them.

Republicans will also be competitive in several other Senate races, as they project to have a strong opponent against West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins battle for the GOP nomination to be decided in May), while state Treasurer Josh Mandel looks to provide a stronger challenge to Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) than he did in 2012 when he fell 51-45 percent. The Pennsylvania GOP electorate looks to be coalescing behind Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazelton) but upsetting Sen. Bob Casey Jr. is still a highly formidable task, and this developing contest must be considered a long shot as the new year begins.

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Southern Polls

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 22, 2017 — If the Democrats are going to make a concerted run at the Senate majority, they must protect all 10, and possibly 11, of their vulnerable states, and then convert both the Arizona and Nevada Republican seats. Or, they must score at least one major upset in what should be a safe Republican domain if they don’t succeed in achieving all of the aforementioned.

democrat-conversion-opportunities-mississippi-tennesseeAlabama Senator-Elect Doug Jones’ (D) victory earlier this month makes attaining a Democratic majority mathematically possible even though the party must now defend 26 of 34 in-cycle seats next year when adding the new Minnesota special election to the calendar.

Wednesday, two polls were reported in 2018 southern Republican states: Tennessee and Mississippi.

The Democrats’ chances in the Volunteer State, though still in the long-shot sphere, have improved since former Gov. Phil Bredesen agreed to run for the Senate.

WPA Intelligence, polling for the Super PAC, Defend the President, a group supporting Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) in her battle for the open Senate seat (Dec. 13,14,17; 500 likely Tennessee general election voters) found the congresswoman leading former Gov. Bredesen by a healthy 43-34 percent margin. If ex-Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) were the Republican nominee, however, the race flips. Here, Bredesen would hold a 42-30 percent advantage.

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Alabama Stats;
Minnesota’s New Senator

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 15, 2017 — Predictably, Democrats and media commentators are promoting the premise that Doug Jones’ victory in Tuesday’s Alabama special Senate election is another sign that a Democratic wave is building to transform the minority party into one that wins control of at least one congressional chamber next year. But the actual numbers do not provide evidence for such an analysis.

In actuality, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) may have succinctly and correctly described what happened in the Alabama election, which caused Republicans to lose one of their safest seats in the nation. During an interview with NBC News, Sen. Johnson simply said, “Alabamians didn’t want somebody who dated 14-year-old girls.”

Looking at the actual figures, there is more supporting data for the supposition that Jones’ win is more likely due to Republican defections from former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, rather than a massive increase in Democratic turnout. While the Alabama special did feature a higher turnout than the last midterm election (2014), we also saw this phenomenon occur in two earlier special elections: the Montana at-large and GA-6 congressional contests. Republicans won both of those votes, proving that the GOP base was sufficiently energized in those two places to withstand increased Democratic turnout. But, Alabama doesn’t fit that same model either in the mode of Republican loyalty or an energized Democratic base.

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Jones!

Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones' campaign image.

Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones’ campaign image.


By Jim Ellis

Dec. 14, 2017 — With the final polling covering all possibilities — from Democrat Doug Jones leading by 10 points, to Republican Roy Moore ahead by nine, to a straight tie — Tuesday’s Alabama special Senate election carried a great deal of uncertainty as voters cast their ballots.

Republicans were badly split between those party leaders publicly repulsed by the allegations of sexual impropriety against Moore, to those who felt that holding the seat and preventing the Democrats from having any path to obtaining the Senate majority in 2018 was most important.

The split was enough to allow Democrat Jones, a former Birmingham region US Attorney, to slip past Judge Moore and secure what previously had been a safely Republican seat for the next three years. Jones will replace appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) who fell to Moore in the Republican run-off in late September.

The unofficial final totals give Jones 49.9 percent of the vote as compared to Moore’s 48.4 percent. Election Day’s final turnout figure showed 1,344,406 individuals having cast ballot, a total that will increase when all absentee and provisional ballots are finally added to the mix. In comparison, the last gubernatorial election (2014) drew 1,180,413. The 2016 presidential campaign saw 2,123,372 votes cast. Therefore, this special election, as did others earlier in the cycle (MT-AL; GA-6), actually produced a higher voter turnout than the state’s last regular midterm election.

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Franken & Franks Out; Bredesen In

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken | Facebook

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken | Facebook

By Jim Ellis

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.

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Franken to Resign Today?

UPDATE: Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) today on the floor of the US Senate announced that he would resign: “I am announcing that in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate,” he said.

By Jim Ellis

Dec. 7, 2017 — A day after US House Dean John Conyers (D-MI) resigned from Congress over sexual misconduct allegations, the resignation drumbeat for Minnesota Sen. Al Franken to follow suit may have risen to a successful crescendo. The embattled Democratic politician has now scheduled time this morning on the Senate floor to make an announcement.

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken | Facebook

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken | Facebook

Speculation is rampant that he will make public his decision to resign because of growing sexual harassment accusations, but his spokespeople have stopped short of confirming that such will be the subject matter of his floor address.

The crushing blow to Franken’s political career may be seeing 30 Democratic senators, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), go on record calling for him to resign. Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez has also called upon Franken to leave office.

Should he depart, the 2018 Senate election cycle will significantly change. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) will choose a replacement to serve until the next regular election, with voters then choosing an officeholder to complete the term. The Class II seat would then come in-cycle for a full term in the 2020 election.

Published Minnesota sources suggest that Gov. Dayton’s first choice would be to appoint Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D), his former chief of staff. Most believe she would serve in a caretaker role, thus opening the race in 2018. Smith chose not to run for governor even though the seat is open saying in March when she made public her retirement decision, “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do something.”

Should the involved players choose the caretaker course, we would see this open Senate race accompany an open governor’s position and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) seeking re-election all on the same ballot. The scenario of yielding a competitive governor and Senate race would add to the Minnesota political intrigue, since the state is likely to host as many as five contested US House campaigns among its eight congressional districts.

The Franken situation could also have reverberations for the Alabama special Senate race to be decided on Tuesday. Should Republican Roy Moore win, and he is once again leading according to most polls, the problem of having Franken in the chamber accused of similar actions would be eliminated. This means a bid to expel Moore after he is sworn in could gain steam.

Democrats wanted to get themselves on record as being strongly supportive of sexual harassment victims by vociferously calling upon Sen. Franken to resign, but they also free themselves to call for a new Sen. Moore to resign or be expelled. Since the Republican leadership is not happy with the prospect of Moore serving, the Franken situation could place the twice-removed Alabama state Supreme Court Chief Justice in an untenable position should he win on Tuesday.

Taking the Alabama scenario further, should Moore be expelled – it is unlikely he would resign since he did not remove himself from the ballot after the sexual allegation charges broke, and the voters would have just elected him even with the knowledge of such accusations – the vacancy situation would repeat itself. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) would then appoint an interim senator and the seat would immediately again be placed into special election mode.

This time the new special election would likely be scheduled concurrently with the regular election cycle. As with Franken in Minnesota, the Alabama seat in question is a Class II, meaning it would come in-cycle for a full six-year term in 2020, so filling it with a 2018 election would give the winner only a two-year term.

Whether or not Sen. Franken follows through and resigns this morning, today promises to be an interesting one in the halls of the nation’s capitol.