ST. PAUL, Minn.- Gov. Mark Dayton announced Tina Smith will be replacing disgraced Senator Al Franken.
Who is Tina Smith?
Smith is currently the Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota, where she has focused on infrastructure programs around the state, including the expansion of broadband internet access in rural areas. It seems that Smith took to the job more than her predecessor Yvonne Prettner Solon, who complained about the lack of direction in the role.
However, Smith also has a reputation as a bureaucratic insider, a point which was touched on by Republicans in the 2015 gubernatorial election.
“Smith, like Dayton, is strongly tied to the Minneapolis class of DFL, liberal elite who don’t come close to understanding the needs of most in our state,” said Marty Seifert a former House minority leader to MinnPost.
Smith was the Chief of Staff for Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak and during this time worked with Governor Tim Pawlenty on addressing the I-35W bridge collapse. After this she was the Chief of Staff for Dayton. Under Dayton she contradicted herself on saying the governor didn’t plan to increase taxes.
“The governor’s primary kind of value is, he’s not going to raise taxes on the middle class,” Smith claimed in 2013.
By 2014, Dayton and Smith were looking on implementing a gas tax, one of the most significant tax increases in the state’s history.
Going further back, Smith was the Vice President of Planned Parenthood in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota from 2003 to 2006.
“I helped to provide healthcare and screening for sexually transmitted diseases to thousands of women,” Smith said about her time as VP of Planned Parenthood, “I am proud of my work at Planned Parenthood.”
However, this position does not appear on her official state biography page.
On taking over her role as a U.S. senator, she said she would be taking different positions than the ones Franken took on issues.
“I hope to be a fierce advocate for economic opportunity. Minnesota has some of the best healthcare, yet I have met farmers who say they are no longer able to access their doctor. Iron mining made Minnesota great, yet there are mayor’s in the Iron Range now who worry about the survival of their town. I hope to represent these views when I go to Washington DC,” Smith said, “I respect the work Franken did, but ultimately I will be working on issues that play to my strengths.”
Smith indicated that she believed the senate seat she would be taking on had a background of “serving the public good and social justice.”
Due to the nature of Franken’s removal, Smith spoke briefly about sexual assault.
“I believe sexual assault is disrespectful to people in general.”
Smith indicated she was planning on running in the 2018 special election next November.
“If I wasn’t confident [in being elected], I wouldn’t be doing this,” Smith exclaimed.
Smith will be succeeded by Minnesota Sen. Michelle Fischbach (R). Per Minnesota succession laws, she will be able to continue in the Senate as well.
“I’m honored to become Lieutenant Governor but I want to assure my constituents in Stearns and Benton Counties that I will continue to be their Senator,” said Fischbach. “I’ve been told by Senate Counsel the Minnesota Constitution allows the Senate President to serve both roles so that’s what I plan to do for the reminder of Gov. Dayton’s term.”