Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith will run for Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) seat in a November 2018 special election, contrary to initial reports that she would just hold it until then to allow for a wide-open Democratic primary, according to reports from the Associated Press and the local Star Tribune.
BREAKING: Democratic operative tells @AP Minnesota governor to appoint Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to Franken's seat; she will run in 2018.
— AP Central U.S. (@APCentralRegion) December 13, 2017
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton officially announced the appointment of Smith to replace Franken in a press release on Wednesday morning.
It was widely assumed that Dayton would choose Smith ever since Franken announced his resignation last Thursday after facing weeks of public scrutiny for mounting allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Smith was elected to serve as Lieutenant Governor in 2014 and has been a longtime close ally of the governor, according to the Star Tribune.
“Tina Smith is a person of the highest integrity and ability,” Dayton said in a statement. “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 accepted the appointment, though, she said, she “never anticipated this moment.” In his statement, the governor did not confirm reports that Smith plans to run for Franken’s seat in the 2018 election, saying only that she’s set to serve a one-year term in the Senate.
“Minnesotans will choose a U.S. Senator to serve the remainder of the term being vacated by Senator Al Franken in a Special Election, which will be held concurrently with the 2018 General Election on November 6, 2018,” the press release said.
Dayton was reportedly initially eyeing Smith because she wasn’t interested in running for election, which would have left November open for a Democratic primary.
However, the Associated Press reported that Dayton was pressured to choose a candidate who wanted to run in the November special election so the Democratic party could have a prominent front runner. Smith decided she would run amid that mounting pressure, a Democratic operative told the AP.