Housley seeks Franken seat

ST. PAUL — A state lawmaker launched a special election bid for Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s seat on Tuesday, the first Republican to enter a 10-month sprint to Election Day that could still attract bigger GOP names.

State Sen. Karin Housley has the name recognition in hockey-mad Minnesota that comes from being married to a Hall of Fame player, Buffalo Sabres head coach Phil Housley, not to mention her 2014 run for statewide office and two terms in the Legislature. But several other Republicans, including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, are considering running for the seat, which will open up because of Franken’s planned resignation amid sexual misconduct allegations brought by several women.

“You can’t live your life waiting to find out what somebody else is going to do. Somebody needed to step up and jump into this race if we’re going to be competitive and win this,” Housley said of Pawlenty, whom she called a lifelong friend.

She immediately positioned herself as a “new voice” in a race that could feature Pawlenty and Minnesota’s current Democratic lieutenant governor, Tina Smith, whom Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton appointed to fill Franken’s seat until next year’s special election to finish his term, which expires in 2020.

Franken’s resignation announcement put a surprise seat on the map for Republicans, who hope to defend their narrow Senate majority.

Democrats have largely cleared the path for Smith’s planned run for the seat — top potential competitors like Rep. Keith Ellison have backed Smith, as have advocates from nearly every corner of the party. But the field of GOP candidates running to finish Franken’s term is still materializing, with other major GOP names like Pawlenty considering a bid.

Housley’s candidacy gives Republicans an alluring option at a time when female candidates are viewed as necessary amid a reckoning with sexual misconduct in state Capitols and Washington.

“I don’t know if they’re really looking for a woman to run for this seat,” Housley said of Minnesota voters. “But women’s voices are finally being heard.”

She touted her legislative work on issues affecting senior citizens and veterans, as well as campaign work for former Republican Sen. Rudy Boschwitz. Housley ran as a lieutenant governor candidate in 2014 with Republican businessman Scott Honour, who lost in the GOP primary.

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