Governor Dayton has selected his Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith to replace Al Franken in the Senate. Smith will be appointed to serve a one-year term in the Senate, concluding in January 2019. And Smith announced today she will run in the 2018 election. At that time, Minnesotans will choose a U.S. Senator to serve the remainder of the term being vacated by Senator Al Franken in a Special Election, which will be held concurrently with the 2018 General Election on November 6, 2018. Governor Dayton says, “Tina Smith is a person of the highest integrity and ability. There is no one I trust more to assume the responsibilities of this important office. I know that she will be a superb Senator, representing the best interests of our state and our citizens.”
Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier says the choice is not surprising. He says Smith has”been a stabilizing force and an ally of Governor Dayton. She’s done a lot of policy work for the governor, and she’s developed a strong reputation at the State Capitol for being a credible figure.” Schier says the selection of Smith makes good political sense, as it will likely not be a controversial choice within the Democratic party.
As for what happens in the state legislature now that Lt. Governor Smith is heading to Washington, Republicans say they’re willing to help Governor Dayton by putting a Democrat in the lieutenant governor’s office. If there’s no intervention by Republicans, G-O-P Senator Michelle Fischbach — the Minnesota Senate president — would become lieutenant governor. But Republicans say they don’t want to take the chance of losing what would then be a special election in Fischbach’s Paynesville district, on the slim chance that Democratic Governor Dayton would not be able to serve out the rest of his term and Fischbach would become governor. Senate Republican strategists insist they’re willing to do put a Democrat in the lieutenant governor’s office without asking Dayton for any favor in return. Analysts are skeptical of that.
The Minnesota GOP is responding to Governor Dayton’s appointment today of Lt. Governor Tina Smith to replace Al Franken in the U-S Senate. State GOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan says instead of nominating a leader who can represent all Minnesotans, the governor chose to “play politics” with Franken’s replacement. And Carnahan asserts the appointment is meant to throw the Republican majority in the state Senate out of balance.