Which Democrats might run to replace Al Franken?

The DFL Party will have to pick a candidate for a 2018 special election.

No sooner had rumors of Al Franken's impending political demise started circulating that talk turned to possible replacements for his Minnesota senate seat.

His resignation, which he's expected to make official in the near future, will see a short-term replacement named by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Franken's term wasn't up until 2020, but the interim senator will only stay in position until a special election to be hold on Nov. 6, 2018 – the same time as the general election. At that point, both Minnesota's senate seats will be up for grabs with Amy Klobuchar up for her regularly scheduled re-election. 


– Al Franken is resigning, so what happens next?

Early names bandied about on the GOP side include Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, former senator Norm Coleman (whom Franken ousted in '08) and former governor Tim Pawlenty.

But who might run on the DFL ticket for Franken's seat in 2018? GoMN takes a look at the early contenders.

From the U.S. House to the U.S. Senate

Rep. Keith Ellison

The representative for Minnesota's 5th Congressional District has seen his star rise over the past year, benefiting from the wave of enthusiasm that accompanied the presidential primary bid of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

He was appointed the first ever deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee after narrowly losing out to Tom Perez for the top position, after being backed by Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Ellison's district includes Minneapolis, and is solidly Democratic – meaning little chance he is replaced in the House by a Republican.

Rep. Tim Walz

The 1st District representative for Minnesota would be a more centrist choice, though it would require him to abandon his run for Minnesota governor.

He's shown himself adept at straddling the Democratic and Republican divide while representing his part-urban, part-rural congressional district, winning re-election in 2016 despite the populist tide that led to Donald Trump's election.

Rep. Betty McCollum

The 4th District representative was among those who joined the calls on Wednesday for Franken to resign, and her name is among those mentioned as possible replacements by the Cook Political Report.

Like Ellison's, her seat is safely Democrat, meaning the DFL likely wouldn't be giving up a Congressional seat if she decides to run for the senate in '18.

Rep. Rick Nolan

Much like Tim Walz, Nolan has proven himself someone who can straddle the political divide, with the fiercely competitive 8th District a mixture of North Shore progressives and Iron Range conservatives.

He had flirted with a gubernatorial run this year but decided against it in the summer, intending to stand for re-election again in the 8th district – but could a run for Senate persuade him to change his mind?

Statewide offices

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith

Despite Gov. Dayton saying Thursday he hasn't yet made a decision on who he will appoint as the interim senator, the current Minnesota lieutenant governor is the firm favorite.

It's thought that she would be just that – an interim – as Politico reports she is not believed to have any interest in running in 2018 to serve the final two years of Franken's term.

AG Lori Swanson

Minnesota's Attorney General since 2006, CNN reports Democratic strategists see Swanson as being a "particularly attractive candidate" for Franken's seat.

She told the Pioneer Press in September that she planned on being a candidate of some sort in 2018, but hadn't decided which office to seek.

Rebecca Otto

The Minnesota state auditor is another gubernatorial candidate who could switch her candidacy for a Senate run.She won election to state auditor in 2005 by the largest margin seen in Minnesota since 1894, and recently hit the headlines for her desire to see a statewide $15-an-hour minimum wage.

State legislators, mayors

R.T. Rybak

The former Minneapolis mayor's name has been mooted as a possible interim replacement for Franken, US News reports. But FiveThirtyEight thinks he could choose to run in 2018 to hold the seat beyond that.

Since leaving office Rybak has remained a strong local presence in the Twin Cities. He was named the CEO and president of the Minneapolis Foundation in 2016. 

Chris Coleman

The St. Paul mayor is running for governor next year and will hand over the reigns in that city to Melvin Carter next month. A future in the U.S. Senate might be determined in part by how the gubernatorial race turns out.

He described Franken's resignation as "a sad day for all the causes Al championed," but a reminder that women victims of sexual harassment "must not be silenced."

State Sen. Melisa Franzen

The Star Tribune's "Hot Dish" suggests Franzen, the senator for Minnesota's 49th district, plans to run in 2018.

She won re-election to her district – which covers Bloomington, Edina and parts of Eden Prairie and Minnetonka – with a 9-point victory over her Republican opponent last November.

Rep. Ilhan Omar

An outsider's bet surely, but the Strib also mentioned Minnesota's first ever Somali-American legislator as a possible candidate for the U.S. Senate.

But having been in her position just over a year it might be too soon – she could, however, be a possibility for the 5th or 4th districts should Ellison or McCollum run for senate.

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