MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Following more allegations of sexual misconduct against Sen. Al Franken, several female Democratic senators on Capitol Hill called Wednesday for their colleague to resign, causing a cascade of similar calls from Democratic lawmakers in Washington and Minnesota.
In response, Franken’s office said the senator will make an announcement Thursday. A source tells WCCO’s Pat Kessler Wednesday night Franken still hasn’t decided whether he’ll resign. Sources also tell Kessler Gov. Dayton is leaning towards appointing Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to replace Franken until the 2018 election.
In a Facebook post, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D – N.Y.) was the first U.S. senator to call for Franken to step down. Minutes later, in what must have been a coordinated move, several other female senators — including Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) — said the Minnesota senator should step aside.
By Wednesday evening, more than two dozen Democratic senators, including top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, had called on Franken to leave office.
“I consider Sen. Franken a dear friend and greatly respect his accomplishments,” Schumer wrote in a statement, “but he has a higher obligation to his constituents and the Senate, and he should step down immediately.”
Franken’s fellow Minnesota senator, Amy Klobuchar, said the two of them spoke Wednesday, but she did not immediately join the chorus of lawmakers calling for him to step down. She adjusted her stance later, saying she’s “confident he will make the right decision.”
Sexual harassment is unacceptable. This morning I spoke with Senator Franken and, as you know, he will be making an announcement about his future tomorrow morning. I am confident he will make the right decision.
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) December 6, 2017
On Wednesday afternoon, another of Franken’s Minnesota congressional colleagues, Rep. Betty McCollum, said the growing number of allegations make it “impossible for him to be an effective senator for Minnesota.” Rep. Keith Ellison also called for Franken to resign.
The multiple calls for Franken to leave office came just hours after a Politico report in which another woman accused Franken of trying to forcibly kiss her in 2006.
On Wednesday morning, Franken vehemently denied the allegation, calling it “categorically not true.”
Hours later, “The Atlantic” published an article by writer Tina Dupuy, who alleges that Franken groped her while they were taking a photo at a Media Matters party in Washington, D.C., during President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.
“We posed for the shot. He immediately put his hand on my waist, grabbing a handful of flesh. I froze. Then he squeezed. At least twice,” Dupuy said.
Franken has yet to respond to Dupuy’s accusation.
Last month, Los Angeles anchor and model Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of forcibly kissing her and groping her breasts while she slept during a USO tour. Shortly after, Franken apologized.
In the following weeks, more women came forward, saying the senator groped them during photo opportunities, when he was either campaigning or in office. The senator claimed he didn’t recall those incidents in the same way, but said he was sorry the women felt “disrespected.”
The Senate Ethics Committee is investigating the allegations against Franken, who is currently serving his second term, which is slated to be up in 2020.
While Gillibrand said her fellow Democrat is entitled to the process of the ethics investigation, she added in a Wednesday morning news conference that it’d be better for him to just step down.
“I think it would be better for the country for him to offer that clear message that he values women, that we value women and that this kind of behavior is unacceptable,” she said.
Should Franken resign Thursday, Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, would be charged with appointing a replacement. Then, in November 2018, a special election would be held to determine Franken’s permanent successor.
Possible replacements for Franken include Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Attorney General Lori Swanson. According to capitol insiders, his replacement would likely be a woman.
In addition to Franken’s seat possibly being up for grabs in 2018, there will be races for Klobuchar’s and Dayton’s offices, making the political focus on Minnesota white hot ahead of election day.
The last time both senate seats and the governor’s office were on a Minnesota ballot was back in 1978.