By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Sen. Al Franken returned to Minnesota for his first public appearance here since resigning from the U.S. Senate.

In an exclusive interview with WCCO-TV, he talked about how much he misses his old job.

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Franken resigned from the Senate in January after #MeToo allegations from more than half a dozen women alleging unwanted touching.

Franken was joined by three Minnesota members of Congress at the dedication of the new Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig High School on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. The old school campus was comprised of tin buildings that leaked, were rodent-infested, had heat that often failed in the winter, and plumbing that led to frequent sewage backups.

Franken says the conditions were a disgrace.

Those who have worked with Franken as a Senator say it’s no surprise that he chose this school dedication for his first public event in Minnesota since he left the Senate.

Repeatedly during the high school’s dedication there were standing ovations for Franken, who for eight years as a member of the Indian Affairs Committee led the fight for the $12 million in funding for the new facility.

In his speech, Franken said he deeply missed working on Indian issues.

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“That means a lot to me. It was very moving for me. It was very gratifying. I put my heart in the job,” Franken said. “I miss the whole job. I loved that job, I loved the job as Senator. … It was very meaningful for me and bittersweet, I would like to still be there.”

Franken was treated warmly at every turn. One young father remembers Franken’s repeated visits to the school, and like many on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation, he says he would like to see Franken return to public life.

When WCCO’s Esme Murphy asked him whether he plans to run for office again, he responded, “Well, see, if I say anything there you will put it in the story. I don’t know. I haven’t ruled it out, and I haven’t ruled it in.”

Franni Franken admitted her husband’s abrupt departure from the Senate has been difficult for both of them.

“It has been a challenge, but we do get to spend more time together, and I think there are times that both us would like spend less time together,” she said, laughing.

The Frankens reveled in the interactions with tribal members.

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They said they will be back in Minnesota in late August to visit friends and go to one of their favorite events, the Minnesota State Fair.

Esme Murphy