When Al Franken resigns, who will replace him?

Last Updated Dec 7, 2017 3:46 PM EST

Sen. Al Franken's resignation — which he says will officially happen in the coming weeks amid sexual misconduct allegations — he will leave an open seat for Minnesota in the U.S. Senate. So, what happens next and who will take his place?

The next step is for Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, to select someone to fill the vacancy. Dayton said in a statement Thursday he expects to make and announce his decision "in the next couple of days."

"Events have unfolded quickly; thus, I have not yet decided on my appointment to fill this upcoming vacancy. I expect to make and announce my decision in the next couple of days," Dayton said in a statement shortly after Franken announced his upcoming resignation from the Senate floor. 

Under Minnesota law, the governor has the ability to select a temporary replacement for Franken, until the governor calls a special election. Franken was last elected in 2014, for a term that was supposed to last until 2020. Whoever wins such a special election would serve until 2020, when that person could run again. 

As long as Franken officially steps down by May, ahead of scheduled August primaries in Minnesota — it should be long before then, according to his statement — under Minnesota code the special election to fill his seat would take place next November during the 2018 midterm elections.

Until that special election, of course, Dayton's selection will be taking Franken's place in the Senate. While Dayton, as he said, hasn't announced that pick, one name is already being widely floated. 

One of the most oft-mentioned names thus far is Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. Smith, who jointly released a statement with Dayton about Franken's announcement Thursday, is being floated as Franken's possible replacement. Smith, a Democrat, took her current office in January 2015. In 2016, she was named one of the top 25 most influential women in state politics by CQ Roll Call. Smith graduated from Stanford University with her bachelor's degree, and from Dartmouth College with her MBA. 

But Smith isn't certain as a selection. Other possibilities being floated include Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minnesota, and Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota. But selecting one of those possibilities would trigger a special election in Congress, which could complicate matters. Ellison is also currently the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). 

But no matter who Dayton selects, that person will have to run in a special election next year. And whoever wins that special election will only serve until 2020, when Franken's current term expires. Then, another election will have to take place. 

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.