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UPDATE: Friends call for Franken to step down, but he is not tipping his hat yet

Sen. Al Franken is seen in this 2013 file photo at Moorhead High School in Moorhead, Minn. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Al Franken's political friends want and expect him to resign.

The Minnesota Democrat plans a Thursday, Dec. 7, announcement in Washington that many political leaders expect to produce his resignation as accusations of sexual misconduct multiply.

On Wednesday, a half-dozen women senators' call for him to quit quickly became an avalanche that by day's end included more than half of Senate Democrats, the top two national Democratic Party officials and the Democratic Senate leader.

The No. 2 Democratic Party official, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, joined the chorus in a tweet: "Sen. Franken is scheduled to speak tomorrow. I think he will do the right thing and resign."

Franken, 66, has been seen in public little since the first allegations surfaced about three weeks ago. He missed many Senate votes and attended few committee meetings. He remained out of public sight Wednesday.

Minnesota Public Radio reported late Wednesday afternoon that it had confirmed Franken will resign, but a Twitter account under the senator's name quickly responded: "Not accurate. ... No final decision has been made and the senator is still talking with his family. Please update your story."

The Franken situation was the talk of Washington, with most who spoke calling for him to leave. But Franken's fellow Democratic Minnesota senator stopped short of seeking a resignation.

"Sexual harassment is unacceptable," Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Wednesday. "This morning I spoke with Sen. 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."

Many others, however, clearly said it is time to go.

"I expect that Senator Franken will announce his resignation tomorrow," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, tweeted. "It is the right thing to do given this series of serious allegations."

Minnesota Democratic U.S. Reps.Collin Peterson and Tim Walz told a MinnPost Washington reporter that Franken should resign. Peterson said Franken no longer can effectively represent Minnesota.

Many other Minnesota Democratic leaders stopped short of asking for him to quit, albouth governor candidates State Auditor Rebecca Otto and state Rep. Erin Murphy have sought his resignation.

Franken apparently has not been in Minnesota since Nov. 11, days before sexual misconduct allegations began to be reported. He talked to some Minnesota reporters and briefly talked to Washington media last week before heading to his first Senate meeting after allegations began.

The senator largely has been silent in public in recent weeks as seven women accused him of inappropriate touching and other misconduct..

Several women say he inappropriately touched them during USO tours, at the Minnesota State Fair and in a radio studio.

The latest report of sexual misconduct came in a Politico story Wednesday. A woman congressional staffer, not named by the news organization, said Franken tried to kiss her after her boss appeared on Franken's radio show in 2006.

"It’s my right as an entertainer," she told Politico that he said.

Franken released a statement denying the incident. "This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous. I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing Ethics Committee investigation."

A Los Angeles radio host brought the first public complaint against Franken, saying he forced a kiss on her during a 2006 USO tour. She also posted a photo of him with his hands hovering over her breasts as she slept on a military airplane.

After the first report, there were allegations that Franken grabbed women's buttocks as he took photos with them.

Franken was elected in 2008, and became senator in 2009 after months of an election recount.

If Franken resigns, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton would appoint someone to fill the seat. Then that seat would be on the November 2018 ballot for a two-year term.

Talk immediately turned to who might run for Franken's seat if he resigns.

A reporter for The Hill website said that he ran into former Sen.Norm Coleman, the Republican who Franken narrowly beat in the 2008 election. "You never say never," Coleman said when asked if he would run.

The list of potential candidates, coming from the rumor mill, includes people such as former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and ex-U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann to several politicians running for governor in 2018 who could opt for the Senate instead.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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