POLITICS

Here Are 6 Women (And 1 Man) Who Could Replace Al Franken In The Senate

With Franken announcing his resignation over sexual harassment allegations, here's a look at who could take his place.

12/07/2017 12:04 EST | Updated 12/07/2017 13:12 EST

Amid accusations of sexual misconduct from at least eight women, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) announced Thursday that he plans to resign.

It will be up to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) to appoint Franken’s replacement. The appointee would join Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and serve until November 2018.

More than 20 Democratic members of the Senate had publicly called for Franken’s resignation, along with several progressive organizations like NARAL Pro-Choice America, CREDO and UltraViolet ― some of which called for a progressive woman to take Franken’s place. 

Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, told HuffPost, “Gov. Mark Dayton should strongly consider replacing him with a progressive woman, preferably a progressive woman of color.”

A likely pick for Dayton is Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. However, she's not expected to run in 2018, which would set up a wide-open Democratic primary.

Here are some potential candidates who could take Franken’s place.  

Minnesota State Attorney General Lori Swanson

Minnesota Attorney General
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson was among the state attorneys general to take on President Donald Trump over the travel ban.

Swanson, the state’s first woman to be elected attorney general, has served in the position since 2006. Before that, she was the state’s solicitor general after four years as deputy attorney general.

Swanson’s tenure as attorney general has been defined largely by consumer protection, by taking on for-profit colleges and recovering millions of dollars from insurance companies who targeted the elderly. She also joined fellow attorneys general from Washington, New York, Virginia and Massachusetts in taking legal action against the Trump administration earlier this year, after the announcement of the “travel ban” on several majority-Muslim countries.   

“The executive order that imposes blanket entry restrictions to the United States for people from certain countries is unconstitutional,” Swanson said in a statement in February.

“It does not pass constitutional muster, is inconsistent with our history as a nation, and undermines our national security,” she wrote. “America can keep its people safe without sacrificing bedrock constitutional principles.”

House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman

YouTube
Melissa Hortman called out her white male colleagues in the Minnesota state House for failing to show up for speeches by women of color.

Hortman made national news in April when she called out her white male colleagues in the Minnesota House of Representatives for skipping important speeches from their female colleagues, particularly women of color.

In a hearing for a public safety bill that would increase punishment for protesters who block traffic, Hortman noticed that her white male colleagues were absent. 

“I hate to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room, but I think this is an important debate,” she said. After she “offended” many of the men she was calling out, she was asked to apologize. 

“I’m really tired of watching women of color, in particular, being ignored. So, I’m not sorry,” she said. 

Hortman is a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and has served as a state representative since 2004. She represents the state’s District 36B. 

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges

D Dipasupil via Getty Images
Betsy Hodges at a "We Stand United" rally in New York City the day before Trump's inauguration.

Hodges was elected mayor of Minneapolis in 2014. Prior to her election, she spent eight years on the Minneapolis City Council.   

After her decade-long career in public service in Minneapolis, Hodges has faced controversy in 2017. In July, after Minneapolis police shot and killed an unarmed Australian woman, Justine Damond, members of the public called for Hodges to step down for not addressing seriously the issue of police violence.

Hodges also campaigned for re-election as Minneapolis mayor but lost to fellow Democrat Jacob Frey, who will take office in January 2018. 

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison 

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Keith Ellison speaks out against Trump's travel ban in Washington, D.C., in February.

Ellison, a Democrat, was elected to Congress in 2006 after serving in the Minnesota state House for four years. In 2017, he was appointed deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee under former Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. 

On Monday, Ellison would not say whether he thinks Franken and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who is also accused of sexual harassment, should resign. He told Democracy Now that he thinks all members of Congress should “look inside their conscience and ask themselves just a few questions.”

“Can you be effective?” Ellison said. “If you stood up your whole life to stand up for the rights of people — and both of them have — is it not a moment now where you apply some standards to yourself that you have asked others to live by?” 

Conyers has since announced his retirement.

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum

Bill Clark via Getty Images
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) speaks to the media after prayers at the Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque in Falls Church, Virginia, in 2015.

McCollum was elected to represent Minnesota’s 4th District in 2000, becoming only the second woman to win a congressional election in the state. 

Prior to her congressional election, McCollum, a Democrat, served four terms in the Minnesota state House of Representatives. 

In November, as more and more women began speaking out against workplace sexual harassment, McCollum said she once had to use a rolled-up newspaper to fend off unwanted physical contact from a male lawmaker.

State Rep. Ilhan Omar 

STEPHEN MATUREN/AFP/Getty Images
Ilhan Omar delivers her acceptance speech on Nov. 8, 2016, after being elected to the Minnesota state House of Representatives.

Omar made history on Nov. 8, 2016, by becoming the first Somali-American Muslim legislator to be elected for public office in the United States. It was a particularly meaningful accomplishment during an election cycle that saw a huge increase in Islamophobic rhetoric and hate crimes, due in large part to Donald Trump’s Republican presidential campaign. 

Omar, a refugee born in Mogadishu, fled to Kenya with her family when civil war broke out in Somalia. They immigrated to Arlington, Virginia, in 1995 and later settled in Minneapolis, where she began her career in public service. 

Omar currently serves as assistant minority leader in the Minnesota House.  

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith 

Ernesto Mastrascusa/LatinContent via Getty Images
Tina Smith, shown here on a visit to Cuba in June, is a former vice president of the Midwest regional Planned Parenthood.

Prior to her role as lieutenant governor to Dayton, Smith worked as Dayton’s chief of staff ― a position she had held for former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Ryback as well.

Smith’s career began with her marketing firm in Minneapolis, as well as serving as vice president of Planned Parenthood’s Midwest region. When Dayton chose her as his running mate in 2014, he said, “Tina Smith is quite simply the very best ― the very best public administrator I’ve ever seen.”

MinnPost wrote last year that “Minnesota’s never had a lieutenant governor like Tina Smith.” Smith is known for refusing to take a marginal role in Dayton’s administration and is reportedly in constant contact with the governor, making sure that she “actually has real responsibilities.”

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