Franken Resigns: Feels Work as Senator has 'Improved People's Lives'

December 07, 2017 10:28 PM

Al Franken, facing allegations from multiple women of inappropriate sexual conduct, announced Thursday he will resign from the U.S. Senate.

"Today I am announcing that in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the Untied States Senate," Franken said from the Senate floor Thursday just before 11 a.m. (CST).

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"I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice."

His replacement will be appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton, who said he could announce a choice in the next few days.

In saying "coming weeks," Franken left unclear exactly when he would step down. Political analysts expect the governor's appointment would be made quickly. 

STATEMENTS: Democrats Somber after Franken Resignation Announcement

"Events have unfolded quickly; thus, I have not yet decided on my appointment to fill this upcoming vacancy," Dayton said in a statement Thursday. "I expect to make and announce my decision in the next couple of days."

The last time a Senator required appointment by a Minnesota governor was 2002 when Sen. Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash while campaigning and then-Gov. Jesse Ventura appointed Dean Barkley to fill his seat.

Franken never specifically acknowledged any wrongdoing Thursday.

"Some of the allegations are simply not true. Others I remember very differently," he said. 

KSTP/SurveyUSA: Franken Job Approval Plummets, Many Say He Should Resign

He said he felt the country had entered a long-overdue important moment in history, in which women's concerns were being heard, and that he was excited to be part of that conversation.

And then the conversation turned to him, Franken said.

"I was shocked, I was upset," he said. "But in responding to their claims, I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation, because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously. I think that was the right thing to do.

"This has been a tough few weeks for me, but I am a very, very lucky man," Franken said in making the announcement. "I have a beautiful, healthy family that I love and that loves me very much. I'm going to be just fine."

His Minnesota colleague, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, told KSTP's Tom Hauser Franken informed her of his decision Thursday. But they had talked about his situation Wednesday when new allegations surfaced and many of his fellow Democrats issued calls for his resignation.

"We just talked about how hard it was going to be for him to continue to serve," Klobuchar said. "His response was that he needed to talk to his family - (his wife) Franni - and I truly respected that."

Franken, 66, had gained respect as a serious lawmaker in recent years, and had even been mentioned in talk about the 2020 presidential campaign.

Franken noted he was being forced out while President Donald 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 has 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.

TIMELINE: Franken Allegations

At least eight women have accused Franken of inappropriate conduct, including one on Wednesday who accused the senator of forcibly kissing her after a taping of his radio show in 2006. That allegation appeared to be the tipping point that led to a rapid succession of calls for his resignation by colleagues and other members of the Minnesota congressional delegation.

Later on Wednesday, an eighth woman came forward and said Franken inappropriately squeezed "a handful of flesh" on her waist while posing for a photo with her in 2009.

RELATED: Barkley Says Getting Up to Speed Quickly Would Be Biggest Challenge for Appointed Senator

Franken's camp said the senator spent the remaining hours Wednesday speaking with his family ahead of Thursday's announcement. 

Minnesota law requires a special election for the Senate seat next November – the next statewide election. That means two Senate seats would be up in the same year, as well as the governorship.

"It will certainly mean a lot of eyes on Minnesota, and a lot of dollars spent here," said Matt Lindstrom, a political science professor at St. John's University, and the director of the school's Eugene McCarthy Center for Public Policy and Civic Engagement.

The winner of that special election would then fill the remainder of Franken's term, meaning they would likely be running again in 2020.


Whom do you believe Gov. Mark Dayton should appoint to replace Sen. Al Franken? Let him know your thoughts.


Political analysts believe it's likely Dayton will appoint a woman to replace Franken in the Senate. 

Carlton College political science professor Steven Schier says the move would likely come quickly, perhaps in the next day or two. 

And atop the list of likely appointments is Minnesota's lieutenant governor, Schier says.

RELATED: Franken to Make Announcement Thursday, Expert Speculates on What Comes Next

"I would say the frontrunner would be Tina Smith, who has been a very able policy formulator and public spokesperson for Gov. Dayton," Schier said. "And he has total trust in her."

Schier says the list of other potential female appointees includes state House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman, former House Majority Leader Erin Murphy and Peggy Flanagan, gubernatorial candidate Tim Walz's running mate.

Likely male appointees would be Walz or Rep. Keith Ellison, Schier said.  


A SurveyUSA question asked 600 adults, "If Al Franken resigns from office, Governor Dayton would appoint a replacement, who would serve until next election. If this happens, which of these people would you most like to fill the Senate seat? Lt. Gov. Tina Smith? Rep. Keith Ellison? Attorney General Lori Swanson? Former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak? Or someone else?" The poll has a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent:


RELATED: Franken Battled Charges of Sexism from GOP During 2008 Campaign

Dayton released the following statement after Thursday's announcement:

"I extend my deepest regrets to the women, who have had to endure their unwanted experiences with Senator Franken. As a personal friend, my heart also goes out to Al and his family during this difficult time.

"In other respects, Al Franken has been an outstanding Senator. He has been, as Senator Paul Wellstone used to say, 'A Senator from the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party.' He is very smart, very hard-working, and very committed to Minnesota. I wish him well in his future endeavors.

"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 of days.

"I will have no further comments on this subject until that time."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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