Democratic senators to Al Franken: Resign

(CNN) — Embattled Sen. Al Franken will make an announcement Thursday, his office told reporters, as calls for the Minnesota Democrat’s resignation rapidly gained momentum Wednesday in dramatic fashion.

Twenty-eight Democratic senators — 13 female and 15 male including the second-ranking Democrat in chamber — called on Franken to resign as allegations of sexual harassment against him continue to mount. Republican Sen. Susan Collins also called on Franken to quit.

In a statement on Facebook, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand wrote: “While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve.”

RELATED: Army veteran says Franken groped her during USO tour in 2003

Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Patty Murray of Washington, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Kamala Harris of California, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Dianne Feinstein of California, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii also joined in the call for Franken to resign.

Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania was the first male Democratic senator to call on Franken to resign just after noon Wednesday. Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, Tom Carper of Delaware, Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Sherrod Brown also called for Franken to step down. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois — the Democratic whip — also called on Franken to resign just before 1 p.m. ET. Independent Sens. Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who both caucus with the Democrats, also called for him to resign.

Notably absent was Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. “No comment at this point,” Schumer said entering a lunch Wednesday.

The Senate Ethics Committee is investigating Franken following an account described by Leeann Tweeden, a morning news anchor on KABC radio in Los Angeles, which described Franken groping and forcibly kissing her during a USO tour in 2006, before Franken became a senator. After that initial account, several other women came forward to say Franken inappropriately touched them. Franken has repeatedly apologized about behavior that he said “crossed a line” for some women. The second-term senator has also said that he has taken thousands of photos with people over the years and that while he doesn’t remember specific pictures or campaign events, any inappropriate behavior was unintentional.

At least six women — three named and three unnamed — have accused Franken of inappropriately touching them. The most recent accusation came in a Politico report Wednesday, in which, a woman who chose not to be identified alleged Franken tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006. Franken released a statement categorically denying the accusation. “This allegation is categorically not true and the idea that I would claim this as my right as an entertainer is preposterous,” the Minnesota senator said. “I look forward to fully cooperating with the ongoing ethics committee investigation.” CNN has not verified the accusations in the Politico report.​

The calls for Franken to resign come one day after Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan announced he would retire immediately. Conyers had also faced multiple allegations of sexual harassment by former employees, accusations Conyers vehemently he denied.

(CNN) — Should Sen. Al Franken decide to step down, his resignation would set up a gubernatorial appointment and open up a new Senate battleground in 2018.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton does not plan to get ahead of Franken’s scheduled announcement Thursday, a senior Minnesota Democrat close to Dayton told CNN, but the governor’s “expectation and hope is for Franken to resign.”

Should Franken step down, top names to replace him are Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison and Tim Walz, this official said. Another leading contender will be Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, a former chief of staff to Dayton.

“Don’t overlook Lt. Governor Smith,” the official said. “She could be the perfect choice.”

The field of Democrats looking to succeed Dayton as governor might also be ripe for picking to fill Franken’s seat. Attorney General Lori Swanson would be a particularly attractive candidate, said one senior Democratic strategist.

Come the 2018 midterm elections, the Senate seat would be up for grabs — and would likely become a target for the Republican Party.

Republicans weighing a bid for governor could decide to look to the Senate instead, including Minnesota State House Speaker Kurt Daudt.

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, also a former candidate for president, would also likely have the resources and connections to mount a serious campaign. Another GOP former presidential candidate, former Rep. Michele Bachmann, could also leverage her national profile to run for Senate.

Among the Minnesota congressional delegation, Rep. Tom Emmer, who ran for governor in 2010, would be a potential GOP candidate to watch, said one GOP campaign strategist. Rep. Erik Paulsen is also viewed by Republicans as someone who is ambitious and well-regarded, and might be a natural Senate candidate, another Republican strategist added.

But GOP members of Congress, like Emmer and Paulsen, might be hesitant to run for Senate in 2018, an election year that strategists widely predict will be a challenging one for Republicans.

“I can’t see any one of them making the jump in a cycle like this,” said the second Republican strategist.