Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to take over Al Franken’s seat in the U.S. Senate. As you may recall, Franken stepped down from the Senate last week in the wake of sexual harassment allegations made against him.
Smith was considered the frontrunner to take over Franken’s senate seat, as she is one of Dayton’s closest advisors and had expressed interest in running for the office. Smith has already announced that she will not only take the job, but will run in the 2018 special election to complete Franken’s term through 2020. “I will run in that election and I will do my best to earn Minnesotans’ support,” she said at a news conference, per Bloomberg.
Here are four things to know about Minnesota’s new junior senator:
- She’s qualified. Smith is a New Mexico native who graduated from Stanford and earned an MBA from Dartmouth. She came to Minnesota for a marketing job with General Mills, according to the Mercury News, and eventually started her own marketing and political consulting firm. She is married and has two grown sons.
- She is a longtime politician. She has decades of experience working as a Democratic operative, both in Minnesota, where she worked as chief of staff for former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and ran his unsuccessful bid for governor in 2010. On a national level, she worked as an advisor for former Vice President Walter Mondale. (Remember him?) Per Minnesota Public Radio, she was also vice president of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota.
- She’s forward-thinking. Smith has served as Minnesota’s 48th lieutenant governor since January 2015, focusing on rural broadband expansion, economic issues, and broadening access to early childhood education. According to Minnesota Public Radio, she also led a “multibillion-dollar public-private partnership to make Rochester, Minnesota, a center for healthcare delivery,” which created as many as 45,000 jobs in the region. Smith had already announced that she would not be running for Dayton’s job when his term ends in 2018.
- Her move could add more red to the Minnesota statehouse: Under Minnesota law, if the lieutenant governor leaves, the state Senate president moves into the role. Currently, that position is held by Michelle Fischbach, a Republican, and Fischbach’s state senate seat would need to be filled in a special election. Currently, Republicans control the state senate by a single vote.