MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton made history Wednesday by appointing his own lieutenant governor, Tina Smith, to the U.S. Senate.
Smith will replace Sen. Al Franken who said last week that he will step down from office following a string of sexual misconduct allegations.
Smith will join her fellow Democrat Amy Klobuchar on Capitol Hill. It’ll be the first time in state history that Minnesota sends two female senators to Washington.
“Though I never anticipated this moment, I am resolved to do everything I can to move Minnesota forward,” Smith said in a Wednesday morning news conference. “I will be a fierce advocate in the U.S. Senate for economic opportunity and fairness for all Minnesotans.
Smith’s appointment caps a whirlwind week for Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat who said he considered several candidates and got advice from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, among others.
“I am very confident I made the right decision,” he said.
Ms. Smith goes to Washington with a firestorm raging over sexual harassment, including allegations against President Donald Trump.
“Sexual harassment is disrespectful to people, and it can’t be tolerated,” Smith said, adding: “I think we are in the middle of a kind of sea change.”
Smith’s appointment creates a political predicament for the Democratic governor.
Minnesota’s law of succession plucks the Republican Senate President Michelle Fischbach and places her in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office.
But in a legal twist, Fischbach says she won’t resign from the Senate, where Republicans hold a one-vote majority.
“It’s always an adventure here, and this is our big adventure for this week,” Fischbach said.
Franken issued a statement Wednesday, saying Smith will make “an excellent United States Senator.”
He said he looks forward to working with her on ensuring a speedy and seamless transition.
Meanwhile, Franken has yet to officially resign.
In his speech on the Senate floor last week, he announced that he’ll step down “in the coming weeks,” probably early January.
After he steps down, Smith will serve for about 11 months, then she’ll run for election to the Senate in November 2018 for the remaining two years of Franken’s term.
“If I wasn’t confident [of winning an election], I wouldn’t be doing this,” she said. “I shouldn’t be underestimated.”