Minnesota Governor Picks Tina Smith to Fill Al Franken's Senate Seat

The Latest Smith Don't underestimate me in Senate race

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Smith and announced it during a press conference, saying she is the best person for the job.

Smith, who served as Dayton's chief of staff during Dayton's first term, name-dropped the liberal lions who'd held the seat now occupied by Franken, and said she intends to live up to their legacies.

Smith says she will run in a special election in November 2018.

Smith's ascension was set in motion by Franken's decision last week to leave the Senate in the coming weeks in the face of mounting accusations of sexual misconduct before and during his time in office.

Smith decilned to speak directly to the sexual harassment allegations against Franken, who she called a "real champion for the state", but did speak generally about the wider cultural shift toward recognizing harassment and outing perpetrators.

"Anybody who knows the voters of Minnesota knows that they can't be told what to do", Ms. Smith said.

Smith, the lieutenant governor since 2015, will serve as senator until at least next fall, when voters are expected to choose a candidate to fill the remaining two years of Franken's term.

The appointment comes less than a year after Smith, widely seen as being groomed to succeed Dayton, announced that she wouldn't run for governor. She has spent most of her career in marketing and behind the scenes in politics.

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"Though I never anticipated this moment", Smith told reporters, "I am resolved to do everything I can to move Minnesota forward, and I will be a fierce advocate in the United States Senate for the economic opportunity and fairness".

U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said the lieutenant governor from Minneapolis will be good to his western Minnesota district.

Smith, a soft-spoken, smiling presence at the Capitol, is credited with quiet but key roles in the response to the 2007 bridge collapse in Minneapolis and in the building of a new Vikings stadium.

Dayton acknowlegded that "in an ideal world, this would not be unfolding", but said his "top priority is giving the people of Minnesota who I believe to be the very best senator starting the day that she takes office".

"I absolutely wholeheartedly support Tina Smith for Democratic Senate nomination, and I hope the people of Minnesota will elect her in 2018", he said. Smith previously served as the Vice President of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Since leaving the governor's office when Dayton replaced him in 2011, Pawlenty has been a Washington lobbyist for the financial industry, but maintains his Minnesota home. Currently, that's a Republican - GOP Sen. Karin Housley of St. Mary's Point one who has said in public she is considering the race.

She moved to Minnesota in the 1980s for a General Mills marketing job.

Tina graduated from Stanford University and earned an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Tina and her husband Archie have been married for more than 30 years. She managed former Vice President Walter Mondale's unsuccessful 2002 Senate campaign, four years after she ran the unsuccessful governor campaign of Mondale's son Ted. Paul Wellstone after he died in an airplane crash days before the election.

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