While Minnesota Democrats speculate about who Gov. Mark Dayton will appoint to Al Franken’s soon-to-be-vacant U.S. Senate seat, Republicans are chattering about who on their side might run for the open seat next year.
Former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman, whom Franken unseated in 2008, would have been at the top of many Republicans’ lists of possible candidates, but the former St. Paul mayor ruled out running for his old seat in a Facebook post hours after Franken announced his resignation on Thursday.
Although no Republicans jumped into the race immediately, party activists said privately it’s never too early — and always fun — to speculate on potential candidates.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s was the name most frequently mentioned in not-for-attribution conversations with GOP operatives.
Pawlenty, now president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based Financial Services Roundtable, has said repeatedly that he is “politically retired.” But that hasn’t discouraged supporters from encouraging him to run for governor next year, and some suggested he’d have a better chance of winning his party’s nomination for senator.
In 2001, Pawlenty planned to run for the Senate until then-Vice President Dick Cheney told him the White House was backing Coleman for the seat. So Pawlenty switched his sights to the governor’s office, which he won the following year.
Others predicted Republican Congressmen Tom Emmer and Erik Paulsen would be strong contenders for the Senate.
Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt is the best-known Republican in state politics. He is considering running for governor next year but might be attracted to an open Senate seat.
Former state Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch of Buffalo is looking at running for Franken’s seat, said a former Republican official who predicted the party will endorse a woman for senator.
Other potential female candidates include state Senate Finance Committee Chair Julie Rosen of Vernon Center and Senate Aging Committee Chair Karin Housley of St. Mary’s Point.
Pete Hegseth, a Fox News contributor and former military officer from Marine on St. Croix, unsuccessfully sought the GOP endorsement for U.S. Senate in 2012, and he could jump into next year’s race.
Activists predicted high-profile business executives and other legislators are likely to explore running. With the Republican endorsing convention just seven months away, they expect candidates to start announcing their intentions soon.