Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Politics

Sen. Al Franken says he’s resigning amid fresh accusations

WASHINGTON ó Minnesota Sen. Al Franken announced Thursday he will resign from Congress in the coming weeks following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations and the collapse of support from his Democratic colleagues, a swift political fall for a once-rising Democratic star.

"I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice," Franken said in the otherwise-hushed Senate chamber.

Franken quit just a day after new allegations brought the number of women alleging misconduct by him to at least eight. On Wednesday, one woman said he forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006, an accusation he vehemently denied. Hours later, another woman said Franken inappropriately squeezed "a handful of flesh" on her waist while posing for a photo with her in 2009.

"I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator ó nothing ó has brought dishonor on this institution," Franken declared Thursday.

Franken is the latest to fall in the national wave of sexual harassment allegations that have brought down powerful men in Hollywood, the media and state capitals across the nation. His announcement followed Tuesdayís resignation of Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House.

Franken, the former comedian who made his name on "Saturday Night Live," had originally sought to weather the allegations, disputing many of the specifics but apologizing to his accusers publicly. He had promised he would cooperate with an ethics investigation and work to regain the trust of Minnesotans.

"Some of the allegations against me are simply not true," Franken said Thursday. "Others I remember quite differently." Still, he said he could not both cooperate with an investigation and fully carry out his duties to his constituents.

Franken, 66, had gained respect as a serious lawmaker in recent years and had even been mentioned in talk about the 2020 presidential race.

Franken pointedly noted that he was being forced out while President Donald Trump ó who has been accused of worse offenses and bragged on a leaked "Access Hollywood" videotape of grabbing women by their genitalia ó emerged unscathed. Trump has also endorsed Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct with them when they were teens and he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s.

"I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party," Franken said.

His resignation means Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a fellow Democrat, will name a temporary replacement. The winner of a special election in November 2018 would serve through the end of Frankenís term in January 2021. Among the possibilities is Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, a trusted Dayton ally.

Dayton said after Frankenís remarks that he hasnít yet decided on an appointment to fill the seat but expects to announce his decision in the next couple of days.

In a Senate chamber with a funereal atmosphere, several Democratic women, including some who had called for Frankenís resignation, sat somberly for Frankenís 11-minute speech and embraced him afterward. But they had lost patience with the growing tally of allegations and paved the path for Frankenís exit.

"Enough is enough," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York declared on Wednesday. "We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is okay, none of it is acceptable, and we, as elected leaders, should absolutely be held to a higher standard."

A torrent of Democrats quickly followed Gillibrand.

"Iím shocked and appalled by Sen. Frankenís behavior," said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state. "Itís clear to me that this has been a deeply harmful, persistent problem and a clear pattern over a long period of time. Itís time for him to step aside."

Franken has acknowledged and apologized for some inappropriate behavior, but he strongly denied the new accusation that came from a former Democratic congressional aide, who said he tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006.

The woman, who was not identified, told Politico that she ducked to avoid his lips but Franken told her: "Itís my right as an entertainer."

Franken said the idea he would claim such conduct as a right was "preposterous."

The allegations against Franken began Nov. 16 when Leeann Tweeden, now a Los Angeles radio anchor, accused him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour in Afghanistan.

Other allegations followed, including a woman who says Franken put his hand on her buttocks as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. Two women told the Huffington Post that Franken squeezed their buttocks at political events during his first campaign for the Senate in 2008. A fourth woman, an Army veteran, alleged Franken cupped her breast during a photo on a USO tour in 2003.

A special election for Frankenís seat in 2018 would seem to favor Democrats. The party nationally is banking on favorable winds since midterm elections are often difficult for the party that holds the White House, and Minnesota Republicans have struggled in recent years to recruit top-tier candidates for statewide office.

Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by just 1.5 points in Democratic-leaning Minnesota, preserving a four-decade run for the party in presidential elections.

Comments
Daniel Ruth: For Hillsborough voters, transportation tax is leap of faith they can ponder while stuck in trafffic

Daniel Ruth: For Hillsborough voters, transportation tax is leap of faith they can ponder while stuck in trafffic

Perhaps one way to approach the ongoing community-wide debate over imposing a one-cent sales tax to pay for a variety of transportation needs is to think of all this dickering as a sort of family Thanksgiving dinner that has suddenly turned into a Th...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Approach to charter schools separates Toledo, Bellanti in state House 60 race

Approach to charter schools separates Toledo, Bellanti in state House 60 race

TAMPA — Republican state Rep. Jackie Toledo won her first term by 14 percentage points, a lopsided victory that shows how the district she represents favors a Republican.Two years later, Toledo has drawn a challenge from Democrat Debra Bellant...
Updated: 4 hours ago
John Romano: Liberals are dreaming when it comes to holding on to Floridaís Supreme Court

John Romano: Liberals are dreaming when it comes to holding on to Floridaís Supreme Court

This was a smackdown, no doubt about it.The state Supreme Court just rendered the judicial equivalent of a loud guffaw regarding Gov. Rick Scottís claim he is entitled to replace three retiring Supreme Court justices before he leaves office.And yet, ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
In race to represent Hernando residents in Tallahassee, it's prominent Republican incumbent versus optimistic Democratic newcomer

In race to represent Hernando residents in Tallahassee, it's prominent Republican incumbent versus optimistic Democratic newcomer

Much as it did two years ago, this year's race for the Florida House of Representatives' District 35 seat casts a titan of his party against an underdog political newcomer.Blaise Ingoglia, the Republican incumbent who also chairs Florida's GOP, has o...
Published: 10/17/18
It's a battle of numbers in Pasco County commission races

It's a battle of numbers in Pasco County commission races

Incumbents tout job growth. Challengers focus on poverty, low wages.
Published: 10/17/18
Democrat Jennifer Webb and Republican Raymond Blacklidge pick up the pace as they battle for State House District 69 seat

Democrat Jennifer Webb and Republican Raymond Blacklidge pick up the pace as they battle for State House District 69 seat

Democrat Jennifer Webb and Republican Raymond Blacklidge are pulling in campaign donations from a wide swath of supporters as they try to capture the State House District 69 seat
Published: 10/17/18
Realignment at Big Bend intersection promises safer traffic flow after construction headaches

Realignment at Big Bend intersection promises safer traffic flow after construction headaches

GIBSONTON – A new north-south road is coming to relieve traffic along U.S. 301, but making way for it promises some short-term traffic headaches for a South Shore region already stymied by congestion.The new road would run more than four miles...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Trump criticizes rush to condemn Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi

Trump criticizes rush to condemn Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi

Trump criticizes rush to condemn Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi
Published: 10/16/18
To understand homeless people, Tampa photographer spent 18 months meeting with them

To understand homeless people, Tampa photographer spent 18 months meeting with them

TAMPA — On Jim’s arm was a tattoo of a hinge with screw holes indicating where the recovering addict used to inject heroin.Fernando liked to belt out songs he wrote about a love he lost when he fled from Cuba.Timothy had a dog he refuse...
Published: 10/16/18
Elizabeth Warren angers prominent Native Americans with politically fraught DNA test

Elizabeth Warren angers prominent Native Americans with politically fraught DNA test

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's release of a DNA test, which suggested a lineage to a distant Native American ancestor, has roiled the indigenous community frustrated about the seizure of cultural and social
Published: 10/16/18