Retired Admiral Michael Franken says he will run for Senate

Video still of Michael Franken, Aug. 26, 2019.

Retired Navy Admiral Michael Franken told the Carroll Times Herald on Monday he will run for the U.S. Senate. Franken is the fourth Democrat to declare as a candidate for the seat currently held by Sen. Chuck Grassley.

“I think it’s very clear looking across the national scope of things that the nation has a lot of challenges, and I believe those challenges are less economic at this stage, more rehabilitative, and we need strong leadership,” Franken told Time Herald’s Douglas Burns in a phone interview. “I think there is an element that the Senate needs to regain its footing and we need to mend between the aisle.”

This will be Franken’s second attempt to win the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate. He was also a candidate in 2020.

The interview with Burns was conducted by phone, because Franken was still in the Washington D.C. area, where he has been receiving medical treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The 63-year-old Franken declined to say what the condition for which he had sought treatment was, but told Burns he would disclose after he returned to Iowa and began campaigning. Franken said he would begin campaigning following an upcoming surgical procedure and two weeks of post-surgical rest.

Franken said it “would have been a wise thing” if he dropped out of the 2020 race for the Democratic Senate nomination “for medical reasons and took care of this.” He added, “Then I would have been able to go forward. But I am not a good quitter, never have been.”

Franken finished a distant second in the 2020 Democratic primary, winning 25 percent of the vote in a four-way race. Theresa Greenfield won the nomination with 48 percent of the vote. Greenfield went on to lose to incumbent Sen. Joni Ernst in the general election, 45 to 52.

Both during the primary and afterwards, there were complaints from some Democrats that the state and national parties had unfairly promoted Greenfield at the expense of the other Democratic candidates.

Franken’s declaration to Burns that he will be a candidate (“I’m awaiting a clean bill of health before I file, and I am looking forward to doing that.”) comes the same day that Rep. Cindy Axne, the sole Democrat in Iowa’s Congressional delegation, endorsed her former colleague, and current Senate candidate, Abby Finkenauer. Last week, former Rep. Dave Loebsack endorsed Finkenauer.

Finkenauer served one term in Congress representing Linn County and northeast Iowa, before being defeated for reelection by Ashley Hinson. Prior to being elected to Congress in 2018, she served two terms in the Iowa House of Representatives, where she represented the Dubuque area.

Along with Finkenauer, former Crawford County supervisor Dave Muhlbauer and Dr. Glenn Hurst, a member of the Minden City Council and chair of the Iowa Democratic Party’s Rural Caucus, have announced they are running for the Democratic Senate nomination.

“I would be value added from Day 1,” Franken said, contrasting himself with the other candidates. “I know how the Senate works, having spent quite a bit of time there. I know the personalities on both sides of the aisle.”


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During his almost 40-year-long naval career, Franken worked with Congress as the Navy’s chief of legislative affairs. He was also assigned by the Navy to work as a staff member for Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts. After he retired, Franken worked as a consultant in Washington. He moved back to Iowa to run for Senate.

Franken grew up in rural Sioux County, Iowa, and currently lives in Sioux City.

According to Burns, Franken “unleashed strong populist language” during the interview.

“There’s an issue with corporate America lying prey on those less fortunate, and we need to legislate our way to a better future in that regard,” Franken said, in the one example of populist language Burns quoted.

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