Expert: Franken's Senate Seat Has Odd Past

December 08, 2017 05:49 AM

Sen. Al Franken has announced he will resign his seat in the coming weeks.

The embattled senator made the announcement on the Senate floor Thursday morning.


"Today I am announcing that in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the Untied States Senate," Franken said

"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.

But this isn't the first time Minnesotans have witnessed a shift in that particular seat.  Some political experts even call it cursed.

"This is a troubled seat," said David Schultz, a political expert at Hamline University.

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

Schultz said to better understand why, you have to go back more than 40 years. 

"It all started in 1976 when then-Senator Walter Mondale resigns to become Vice President of the United States," he said. "It creates a vacancy. Gov. Wendy Anderson wants to become Senator, (so) he resigns as Governor." 

That resulted in what's been called the "Minnesota Massacre" in 1978, as Republicans went on to beat all three Democrats who were running in huge upsets. That marked the last time both U.S. Senate seats and the governor's office were on the ballot in the same year in the state.

"Democrats got routed," Schultz said. 

RELATED: Flashback Friday: US Senate Race in 1978 Pitted Johnnie vs. Tommie

Then tragedy struck in 2002 with the death of Paul Wellstone in a plane crash very close to the general election in which he was running against Republican Norm Coleman.

"11 days before the election his plane crashes," Schultz said. 

RELATED: Flashback Friday: Looking Back at Paul Wellstone, 15 Years after His Death

Al Franken would go on to win the seat in 2008 in the closest Senate race in American history. But even that caused some issues. 

"By a couple hundred votes, Al Franken defeats Norm Coleman, but he doesn't take office until July of 2009 because of six months of court fighting," Schultz said. 

In all, Franken's seat has changed hands 25 times, compared to 16 for Sen. Amy Klobuchar's. 

"We've got resignations, we've got deaths, we've got political fights, we've got legal battles, this is a cursed seat," Schultz said. 

Cursed or not, once Franken steps down, it won't be vacant for long. 

"People who are running for the seat might want to think twice about it, but despite that curse, the allure of being a U.S. Senator, one of the most exclusive clubs in the United States, it's so powerful," Schultz said. "I think people are willing to take a chance to do that." 

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



Brett Hoffland

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