Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named to fill Franken seat in Senate – Orange County Register

By KYLE POTTER

The Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to replace fellow Democratic Sen. Al Franken until a special election in November, setting up his long-time and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018 election.

Smith was widely seen as Dayton’s top choice from the moment Franken announced his resignation last week. But her previous decision not to run for governor had raised questions about whether she would want to launch a Senate campaign that would be in the national spotlight.

Smith told reporters Wednesday that she intends to run to complete Franken’s term through 2020.

“I can tell you I shouldn’t be underestimated and if I weren’t confident I wouldn’t be doing this,” she said.

It’s not clear when Smith will head to Washington. Franken, who resigned under pressure from his own party after he was accused of improper behavior by at least eight women, announced last Thursday that he would resign “in the coming weeks.” His office said Tuesday that he had not yet set a final departure date.

The appointment won’t change the balance of power in the Senate.

Smith, 59, served as Dayton’s trusted chief of staff for four years before ascending to become his No. 2 when he needed a running mate in 2014. Dayton has long treated her as an equal in the office, and it was that deference that fueled speculation she was being groomed to succeed him.

Smith’s path to politics was unconventional. A native of New Mexico, she graduated from Stanford and earned an MBA from Dartmouth. A marketing job with General Mills brought her to Minnesota, where she eventually started her own marketing and political consulting firm.

She managed Ted Mondale’s unsuccessful campaign for governor in 1998, then ran the short-lived 2002 Senate campaign for his dad, former Vice President Walter Mondale. Smith served as chief of staff to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak before eventually taking…

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