‘Desperate decision’: Dems’ Iowa Senate pick pushes back after kissing allegation
Franken denies the incident, which did not result in charges, and says he has never before been accused of unwanted advances on women. The retired Navy vice admiral said in an interview that people in his state have already moved on.
Still, he doesn’t let the timing go unnoticed. While describing himself as an advocate for accountability, Franken pointed the finger at Republicans for the « desperate decision » to publish the report in « a Republican newspaper funded by Chuck Grassleyfunded by Republicans.
“I am an active supporter of any effort to uncover and disclose abuse of any kind. But this one didn’t happen,” Franken said. « I’m so disappointed that anything negative has come up about it. Because we’re on eight cylinders. We’re cruising…it was just an oddity. It’s not part of the picture anymore.
Iowa Field Report’s writing of the Franken police report was written by GOP consultant Luke Martz, whose LinkedIn profile identifies him as the site’s founder and editor.
Responding to Franken’s comments about how the police report came to light, Grassley spokeswoman Michaela Sundermann said « to dismiss her assault allegations as politically motivated is baseless and disrespectful. »
« Mike Franken is not the victim here, and he should hold himself to a higher standard as a candidate for public office, » Sundermann said.
With just seven weeks to go until Election Day, the allegation has rocked a once dormant race in Iowa, which sits on the periphery of the Senate map as parties and super PACs make their final spending decisions for mid-terms. That’s closer than expected, according to public polls, but not as close as Democrats’ other pickup opportunities in Ohio, Florida and North Carolina.
In addition, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee protects half a dozen incumbents in battleground states. Bringing those senators back is the DSCC’s main task and the easiest route to retaining the majority — something that made Franken’s job difficult even before the police report came out.
Being a Democrat in Iowa isn’t easy these days: Democrats have lost the last four Senate races. Senate Majority Leader chuck schumer recently bashed Franken’s chances while dining with co-workers, according to Punchbowl News. Schumer also excluded Iowa from its $15 million allocation for Senate races.
Despite the frosty reception so far, Franken believes the Democratic leader will get on board.
« I think Chuck Schumer is happy with our performance, and secretly – he may not say it in public – he’s proud of what we’re doing. And I would expect that [once] he has a poll … and suddenly we are two points, or are we ahead? That suddenly his interest is going to skyrocket,” Franken said.
Maybe not. David Bergstein, spokesman for the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, said, « The DSCC is not involved in this race. » The Schumer-linked Senate Majority PAC, whose Duty and Honor affiliate PAC spent about $250,000 to attack Grassley according to AdImpact, declined to comment.
It’s no surprise that Franken is on his own this fall given his history in the state. He challenged DSCC-backed nominee Theresa Greenfield in 2020, losing the nomination by double digits. (Iowa GOP incumbent Joni Ernst ultimately beat Greenfield by 6 points.)
This time around, many Washington Democrats thought Finkenauer would win and face Grassley in the fall, but Franken beat her by 15 points.
It’s unclear how damaging his former campaign manager’s allegation will be. Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham’s candidacy for the North Carolina Senate imploded in 2020 after an extramarital affair was revealed. Former Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who is unrelated to Mike Franken, resigned his seat in 2017 after several women alleged he made unwanted advances to them.
Al Franken resigned amid the Senate special election in Alabama, when former Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) defeated GOP nominee Roy Moore following allegations of sexual misconduct against the Republican which included the romantic pursuit of teenagers.
Mike Franken’s former campaign manager did not respond to a text message sent to a number given to him.
« I never had that, you know, [in] my 40 years of professional history. I never had this before. Never. Large organizations, small organizations, on ships, on land at the Pentagon, in other offices. Never,” he said in the interview.
Franken presents himself as a Democrat who could be unpredictable as a senator. He did not commit to supporting Schumer as a leader in the same interview where he swore the New Yorker would be happy with his campaign, saying he would like to see who else runs. He called Grassley a « party hack » and said that as a senator he would not be « beholden to party politics. »
As he challenges Grassley, 89, the 64-year-old candidate said he was ready to change the filibuster rules to codify Roe v. Wade. When asked if he believed in restrictions on abortion, he replied that he would leave that to the women and their doctors: “I am not qualified for this discussion. I am not a woman.
He also didn’t weigh in directly on whether President Joe Biden should run for the White House again: « I’m not saying he should run again or not. » But Franken largely concurs with the idea that Americans deserve new political leaders.
That would presumably include him, a climb that would require a stunning victory over Grassley after the alleged kiss, all without much help from the Democratic Party. Grassley is expected to spend more than $2.5 million on ads this fall, according to AdImpact, in addition to a coordinated buy with the Republican National Senate Committee totaling six figures, according to an NRSC aide.
Franken, on the other hand, currently has less than $900,000 on the books this fall, though he hasn’t booked all of his fall bookings and an aide says he’ll be getting more soon. He insisted he would surprise everyone. Still, he says he « would like to have outside support. »
« My feeling is we’re going to shut him down, pass him and beat him with points to spare, » Franken said of Grassley. « It’s going to be fine for us. »