Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith appointed to Franken's Senate seat

Image: Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith speaks during an interview at a Hotel in Havana
Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith speaks during an interview at a Hotel in Havana, Cuba on June 22, 2017.Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters file

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By Adam Edelman

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, a Democrat, will fill the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Al Franken, who announced his resignation last week amid sexual misconduct allegations.

The state's governor, Mark Dayton, also a Democrat, said in a statement he’d appointed Smith to serve a one-year term in the Senate, ending in January 2019, in accordance with state law. A special election will be held on Nov. 6, 2018, with the winner serving out the remainder of Franken’s term, which runs through January 2021.

At a news conference later Wednesday morning, Smith said she would run for the seat in the November 2018 special election.

In his announcement, Dayton praised Smith as a “person of the highest integrity and ability.”

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“There is no one I trust more to assume the responsibilities of this important office," the governor said. "I know that she will be a superb senator, representing the best interests of our state and our citizens."

Smith, in a statement, said she was “resolved to do everything I can to move Minnesota forward" and would "be a fierce advocate in the United States Senate for economic opportunity and fairness for all Minnesotans."

Franken, in a statement, praised Smith as "a dedicated public servant who’s worked tirelessly on behalf of Minnesotans" and who "will make an excellent United States senator."

Smith, 59, was elected lieutenant governor in 2014. She previously served as Dayton’s chief of staff, and was the chief of staff for the mayor of Minneapolis and the vice president of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Smith will resign as lieutenant governor and be sworn into the Senate after Franken formally steps down. Last week, Franken, facing a string of sexual misconduct allegations and mounting pressure from fellow Democrats, announced he would be resigning “in the coming” weeks, but has not yet disclosed exactly when.

With an election for the seat in just over 11 months, speculation among Gopher State politicos has run rampant over who might jump into the race on both sides.

On Wednesday morning, shortly after Dayton’s announcement, at least one prominent Minnesota Democrat, Rep. Keith Ellison, said he would sit the race out and support Smith in November.

“Tina Smith is the right person at the right time and has my full support both now and when she runs in the 2018 special election,” Ellison said.