MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota has a new United States Senator, less than seven weeks after Sen. Al Franken was first accused of sexual misconduct.
Tina Smith was sworn in Wednesday as Minnesota’s junior Senator by Vice President Mike Pence.
She was sworn in alongside Democratic Alabama Senator Doug Jones, who won the hotly-contested election in that state last month.
She replaces Franken, who officially resigned Tuesday after facing sexual misconduct allegations.
Smith was Minnesota’s lieutenant governor, a job that now passes to Republican State Senator Michelle Fischbach. She has said she plans to keep her senate seat, but Democrats have vowed to fight that.
Smith has been a behind-the-scenes force in DFL politics for decade, but she is now front and center.
The new Senator was flanked by her family, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Vice President Walter Mondale during her swearing-in ceremony.
Smith had been a top aide to Mondale, former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and served as chief of staff and lieutenant governor under Gov. Mark Dayton.
But Smith has never held elective office in her own right. She says she is ready.
“My values, my approach is significantly different from President Trump, and from the majorities in the United States Senate right now,” she said.
Smith got a vote of support from her predecessor. Franken tweeted Wednesday that Smith will be “an effective U.S. Senator who brings people together to get things done.”
But the 59 year old faces the difficult task of raising millions of dollars to run in a general election in just 10 months.
“Tina Smith has her work cut out for her,” said Larry Jacobs, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School. “She does not have household recognition. She’s going to have to raise $10 million to $15 million without those strong networks that politicians built up over the years.”
The only prominent Republican to announce a run against Sen. Smith in November of 2018 is state Sen. Karin Housely of Washington County.