ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - It’s a decision with national implications. The selection of Lt. Governor Tina Smith to replace Sen. Al Franken is setting the stage for a knock-down, drag-out race in 2018.
“I think that the partisanship in this Senate seat has started already from the Republican chair and it will continue,” said Blois Olson, a political expert.
Both Republicans and Democrats already consider Franken’s soon to be former seat a national priority. Reports suggest that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had privately pushed for someone who would run again in 2018. With Smith, the Democrats gain someone with both name recognition and experience.
“She understands what she’s getting herself into and that’s what I think makes it a safe confident choice for the governor,” said Olson.
Democrats will have plenty to lose in 2018 with the governorship and two Senate seats up for grabs. As election data from 2016 continues to show, the battle for votes will extend outside the Twin Cities metro.
“This divide between greater Minnesota and the metro area is something that Democrats are going to be very conscious of,” said Olson.
Olson believes the race will likely draw large investments from both parties. On paper, Smith has a good chance at holding the seat, but safe bets in the politics of 2017 are increasingly difficult to judge. Many consider the race at this point a toss-up.