Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to replace Sen. Al Franken until a special election in November, setting up his longtime and trusted adviser for a potentially bruising 2018 election, per the AP. Smith was widely seen as Dayton's top choice from the moment Franken announced his resignation last week, and she confirmed Wednesday that she plans to run in the November special election to complete Franken's term through 2020. 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—both Franken and Smith are Democrats. 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, a native of New Mexico, 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'll be joining fellow Democrat Doug Jones in the chamber.)