While we are awaiting the decision by US Senator Al Franken (D-MN) on his future, the time for speculation on the response from Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) is apt.
Dayton’s decision can have many implications and affect the politics of our state for years.
Throughout his discussion, the term sexual harassment has been applied to Franken but this is inaccurate. Sexual harassment can only occur when there is a position of power involved and Franken held no position of power over his accusers.
His choice of a replacement starts with whether or not the selectee is a placeholder or a candidate for reelection in 2018. We are 99.99% sure Dayton will pick a Democrat, but because he has proven to be mercurial in the past we leave 1% on the table. Additionally, this may change a long-term trend of removing the “Jewish Seat.”
So let’s talk about the various scenarios. Since the allegations began and the responsibility of the governor to appoint if they can see in the Senate became a reality we’ve always thought the governor would be willing to select the tenant governor Tina Smith. She would be a worthy choice especially if she were only being a placeholder. Now some believe it’s unlikely for that selection to be made because her vacancy would then be filled by the President of the state Senate Senator Michelle Fishbach (R-13, Painesville).
Now ignorant Democrats might argue why this is not a good idea to do that because it advances a Republican to higher office. Dayton has proven before how easily he is willing to isolate the Lt Governor, remember Lt Governor Yvonne Pretner Solon? People should remember that the Senate is based on a one-vote majority for the Republicans the removal of one person could shift the balance and give Democrats an opportunity to win that seat back. The problem is DFLers would have to be willing to accept a moderate pro-life Democratic candidate in order to win the seat back which hasn’t been in Democratic hands since the time of Senator Joe Bertram (DFL). Changing the majority in the Senate would also make Dayton‘s life easier for his last legislative session.
Additionally, Smith is a prime candidate to be a placeholder. She could fill the position for a year without having to focus on a reelection campaign and do the job well.
Another scenario is that Dayton taps a person from the field of gubernatorial candidates. If he were to select current State Auditor Rebecca Otto (DFL) or Attorney General Lori Swanson (DFL) he could make the path easier for the remaining candidates, especially Congressman Tim Walz (D-MN 01). Either of these choices would not likely be bound by any agreement not to seek reelection. Whatever decision Dayton makes it has the potential of a domino effect.
We hear Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN 05) is gearing up for a run once the seat is filled with an interim person.
This will again start the lining up of people to fill his seat just as happened when he ran for the Democratic National Committee chair. One difference this time may be the lack of Rep. Peggy Flanagan (DFL-46A, St Louis Park) because she is Walz’ running mate.