On Wednesday, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) named Lt.Gov. Tina Smith to replace the departing Sen. Al Franken (D). The 59-year-old Smith will serve at least one year, until January 2019, Dayton announced. A special election will be held next year to permanently replace Franken, who said last week that he will resign in wake of multiple sexual misconduct claims.
Smith said, "I accept this appointment, and it will be my great honor to serve Minnesota as United States Senator." Smith added, "Though I never anticipated this moment, I am resolved to do everything I can to move Minnesota forward. I will be a fierce advocate in the United States Senate for economic opportunity and fairness for all Minnesotans."
Franken was to have served until 2020. So far, he has not announced his departure date.
"Tina Smith is a person of the highest integrity and ability," Dayton said. "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."
Smith was elected in 2014 as lieutenant governor, and has focused on "building an economy that works for all Minnesotans." She is a former chief of staff to Dayton and to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. She also ran the unsuccessful 2002 Senate campaign of former Vice President Walter Mondale.
The special election in November 2018 coincides with a re-election bid by Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D). Smith said, "I will run in that election, and I will do my best to earn Minnesotans' support,"adding, "I believe the way to do that is by being the best Senator I can be.”
Among Minnesota Democrats who were rumored to be alternatives to Smith was U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison. The first Muslim elected to Congress, Ellison will not run in Minnesota’s special. Senate election in 2018, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. While he had made signals that he was interested, the newspaper reported that he has taken that option off the table. Ellison is a member of the Black, Progressive, and other caucuses dominated by Democrats. He is co-chair of the Democratic National Committee and was a vocal supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ failed presidential bid in 2016.
A possible Republican candidate for the Senate seat is former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.