By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Sen. Tina Smith has been in office for only a matter of days, but she has already traveled throughout the state, meeting with constituents and laying the groundwork for an extraordinary political campaign.

In less than 10 months, Smith will face an election to see if she can keep her new job.

In the last few days, she has traveled to Stacy in Chisago County, met with retirees in Duluth, honored a fallen firefighter in Hibbing, and talked about expanding internet broadband in the Iron Range. She also met with community and business leaders in a St. Paul brewery.

While she has been a key aide to Walter Mondale, former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and served as lieutenant governor to Gov. Mark Dayton, she has never run for office on her own.

The November election is already attracting national attention and both parties combined are expected to spend more than $20 million to win the seat.

Among her challenges is a finding from a 2017 survey by the Tarrance group which found that more than 80 percent of Minnesotans didn’t know who she was.

“Going forward, I am going to build on what I have been doing as lieutenant governor,” she said on WCCO Sunday Morning. “I am going to be a fierce advocate for Minnesota…focusing on issues like tax fairness and economic opportunity for everywhere in Minnesota.”

Smith’s lack of experience as a candidate and low name recognition could be a problem if one or more of a couple of big-name Republicans jump into the race.

Among those reportedly considering a run are former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Rep. Michele Bachmann.

The only announced Republican is State Sena. Karin Housley, who is hardly a household name herself. But Housley is expected to make the most of being married to Phil Housley, a Minnesota native and NHL hockey great who is currently the coach of the Buffalo Sabres.

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