Republicans look to fill Franken's seat in 2018

A special election for the U.S. Senate in 2018 is an unexpected development for the leaders of the state's political parties.

The political calendar was busy enough next year with an open governor's seat, all of the state's constitutional offices along with several competitive Congressional races and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar facing re-election. Now Republicans think they may have a chance to pick up a new open seat no one was ready for.

“It's catching both sides off-guard, Republicans and Democrats are both caught off-guard,” said Michael Brodkorb, former Minnesota GOP deputy chair.

Brodkorb says 2018 was already shaping up to be a wild election cycle. He says Republicans are hoping to capitalize on Senator Al Franken's resignation.

“It provides Republicans with an opportunity that they previously didn't have,” said Brodkorb. “Sen. Klobuchar was the heavy favorite for re-election and this is going to give the national Republicans and the national Democrats to focus on that additional Senate seat.”

There was already a crowded field of candidates running to replace Governor Mark Dayton. Brodkorb says some of those candidates may decide to switch to the open Senate seat. While former Senator Norm Coleman has ruled out a run for his old seat, another GOP heavyweight, former Governor Tim Pawlenty has not ruled it out.

“People are figuring out right now what they can do in terms of running for these races, so people are going to have this weekend and I think early next week to decide when they’re going to announce and if they can get the infrastructure to do this," said Brodkorb.

Republican Party of Minnesota Chair Jennifer Carnahan said the state is trending red, and said the open Senate adds to the party’s opportunity in 2018.

“We will just add this seat into our existing strategy, and make sure that we have great candidates coming forward, so we can do what we need to elect all of them,” Carnahan said.

Her counterpart, DFL Chair Ken Martin, says while next year will certainly be a challenge, but he’s hopeful the party can retain all three seats at the top of the ballot.

“I would guard against an overconfidence because anything can happen between now and next November, but I think Democrats have the edge right now,” Martin said.

Both state party chairs expect their respective national parties to provide money and resources ahead of the 2018 election.