Thursday, August 30, 2018

Minnesota U.S. Senate B- Race of the Day

68 Days Until Election Day

Minnesota U.S. Senate B

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Blue State (Midwest)

Outlook: Leans Democrat

This is not a race Democrats planned to have to defend. Nonetheless, they are favored to retain this Minnesota Senate seat in a special election. Whomever wins, will serve until 2020, when the seat comes up again for a full new term.

A year ago at this time, second-term Democrat Senator Al Franken was talked about by some liberals as a potential 2020 Presidential contender. Minnesota's  junior Senator, whom decades earlier first came to public notice as a writer and player on "Saturday Night Live", and who would go on to become a left-wing radio host and activist received plaudits by many for his ability to combine Senatorial seriousness and his deadpan sense of humor. There is no doubt that Franken had already proven himself politically, having narrowly defeated a GOP incumbent, a result that was not without much dispute and hard feelings, and then winning reelection six years later.

All this time, Franken apparently had some secrets though. Late last year, the "Me Too" movement, broke into the forefront, and the comedian turned politician, whom was loved by many feminist organizations, was accused of misbehavior in the recent years before he was a Senator. A woman who performed with him on a USO tour claims he kissed her against her will, while rehearsing a comedy skit. A photograph also emerged that showed a creepily smiling Franken grabbing the chest of the woman, Leaeann Tweeden, over her clothes, as she slept on an airplane. While his defenders have said things like that she was in on the gag or that he was only pretending to touch her, it was quite a damaging piece of evidence. After a brief delay, Franken offered an apology, without either admitting or denying the allegations. Years earlier, speaking to a reporter, he joked about drugging and raping an unconscious prominent journalist and posting photos of it.

 Most Democrats stood by him at first, but quickly, other allegations, by political supporters of the party, came forth that said that Franken had inappropriately touched them, as a Senate candidate at political events where they were posing for photos with him. Another liberal woman claimed she was forcefully kissed by Franken when she was a guest on his radio show. At the time, Democrats were trying to capitalize on the very credible allegations made by women against then special election Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, from when they were underage. Some found it hard to attack the Republicans who stood to defend Moore (and Donald Trump), as they did not demand action on Franken.

While Franken had said he was willing to be subject to an ethics investigation, the tide quickly turned on him as female Democrat Senators called upon him to resign. When the number of those abandoning him in his party grew large enough, Franken was left with no choice. He announced his resignation (albeit with a bit of wiggle room) in December on the Senate floor, said that women who make accusations need to be believed, but basically also said the women who were accusing him were lying. Since his resignation, Franken has mostly stayed under the radar, but has offered some comments suggesting he regrets quitting and was treated unfairly. Many supporters agree with him and speculate on a political comeback.

Since Minnesota has a Democrat as Governor, it was a bit easier for members of the party to cut bait with Franken, considering a Democrat would be appointed to replace him. Indeed, Governor Mark Dayton named his Lt. Governor and former Chief of Staff Tina Smith as his pick to replace Franken. Many commented that the announcement came in a way to try to assure that Franken did not turn back on his decision to resign. (Had Roy Moore actually been elected in Alabama, he may have claimed the right to retain his seat.)

The fairly low-key but respected Senator Smith now appears before the voters of her state in the special election. None of the prominent members of the DFL who were passed over by Dayton decided to challenge her, but Richard Painter, a law school professor and former George W, Bush Administration ethics lawyer did. Few had ever heard of Painter until he began appearing regularly on cable news shows to discuss the various daily scandals and controversies surrounding the Trump White House. Despite Painter's ties to the Republican Party, he seemed to run to Smith's left in this race. Officially endorsed by the party, she defeated him 76-14.

Several potential candidates were mentioned on the GOP side as potential special election hopefuls. Among the most well-know, Tim Pawlenty mounted an ill-fated comeback attempt for Governor instead, and Norm Coleman, who is now battling a serious bout with cancer, declined to try to win his seat back.

While businessman Bob Anderson, a past Congressional nominee  of the Independence Party and staunch supporter of Donald Trump, joined the several other Andersons who ran for the other Senate seat in Minnesota, won 36 percent in the August primary, the convention endorsement and nomination went to State Senator Karin Housley. She received 62 percent in the primary.

Housley is an intriguing candidate who had defeated a DFL incumbent to take her legislative seat in St. Paul and in 2014 was the Lt. Governor candidate on an unsuccessful ticket in the primary. What might garner the most attention for her though in the "State of Hockey", is her marriage to Phil Housley.While the defenseman never played on an NHL team in his home state of Minnesota, he was one of the most successful American-born players in the league's history and in 2015 was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Currently, he is the head coach of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres.

If an upset is to occur, Housely will have to rely on more than her husband's hockey reputation of course. Smith as both a Democrat in Minnesota and being a functional incumbent has the edge. Polls show that the appointed Senator holds a lead, although it does not seem to be by a margin that is untouchable. As an attractive female candidate and as someone who has taken steps to show some independence from Donald Trump, Housley is a very credible candidate for her party. Nonetheless, she is a definite underdog at this period of time, and with a financial disadvantage, runs the risk of falling further behind before the voting.

U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 
11 D (7 Safe, 2 Likely, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup), 
2 R (2 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:
34 D (23 holdovers, 7 Safe, 2 Likely, 1 Leans, 1 Tossup)
44 R (42 holdovers, 2 Tossup)


At 8:13 PM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Smith wins (56% to 43%).


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