ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Gov. Mark Dayton named Tina Smith, his longtime chief of staff, for the number two spot on his 2014 re-election ticket.
Smith replaces Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettne Solon, who announced she won’t seek another term.
Smith is a longtime Democratic insider, a dealmaker at the State Capitol, and a highly regarded administrator who rarely takes the public stage.
“This is a guy who rushes to trouble, just in case he can help,” said Smith Tuesday at a raucous union hall rally where she was introduced by the governor. “This is what leadership looks like. And I’m not afraid to say that it is inspiring, and it is energizing.”
As the governor’s chief of staff for the last three years, Smith was sometimes called “The Hammer”.
She headed the state’s effort for Mayo Clinic’s $5 billion redevelopment project in Rochester.
And she was a force behind the deal for a new Vikings stadium.
Smith has never held public office, but appeared comfortable in a new role as Dayton booster.
“I’ve seen how the governor deliberates. How he asks tough questions. How he really considers the facts,” she said. “I’ve seen how he listens to people of all different perspectives and I’ve seen how he speaks the truth, even if it is not totally popular with his friends all the time.”
Republicans weren’t silent on Tuesday. The Minnesota Jobs Coalition called Smith a Democratic insider.
“With the MNsure debacle worsening by the day, Dayton missed an opportunity to pick a qualified person from outside state government to get his administration back on track,” said Ben Golnik, chairman of the Minnesota Jobs Coalition. “Instead, Dayton doubled down on his incompetence by picking a current staffer and longtime DFL insider.”
“This is the Dream Team for liberal millionaires,” said Chris Fields, the secretary of the Minnesota Republican party.
“The rest of Minnesotans are going to sit around and go: What’s in it for me? And I just don’t see that there’s a whole lot for every day Minnesotans,” he said.
By choosing Smith, a Minneapolis resident, Dayton abandoned geographic balance on the 2014 ticket.
But he said it may not be necessary, describing himself as the best travelled politician in the state.
“I’ve travelled more miles in this state than any other politician in this state right now. And I know this state, and I’ve worked with everybody around this state. So the way I see it: I live in Minnesota.”
Smith has a long history in politics.
She worked for Walter Mondale, was vice president of Planned Parenthood, and was chief of staff to former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.