WASHINGTON (KMSP) - Former Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith joined the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, filling the seat vacated by the resignation of Sen. Al Franken. Smith was sworn in by former Vice President Walter Mondale.
While her road to Washington was less than ideal, Smith is someone with plans to be more than just a Democratic seat filler -- she is also someone with plans for a future in the Senate.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton chose Smith to replace Franken, who officially resigned Jan. 2 after facing multiple sexual misconduct allegations. Smith will fill Franken's seat until a special election in November. The winner of that race will serve out the remainder of his term, through 2020. Smith plans to run in that election, hoping to remain a senator and keep the seat in Democratic hands.
But Smith will likely face a number of Republican challengers, including State Sen. Karin Housley, who represents the Stillwater and Forest Lake area. She may also face a Republican challenger in former congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, who said she is currently asking God if getting back into politics is in his will for her, ultimately hoping to bring "biblical principles" back to the U.S. Senate.
Political experts say with her name recognition and fundraising ability, Bachmann would be a formidable Republican opponent.
Bachmann left congress in 2014, after four terms in the U.S. House. She ran for president in 2012, along with former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, another Minnesota Republican that has been mentioned as a possible candidate to run for Franken's seat
With Tina smith headed to D.C., the next order of business in Minnesota will be for the courts to sort out if her successor, Michelle Fischbach, will be able to hang on to her state Senate seat while serving as the next lieutenant governor.
Smith submitted her letter of resignation to Gov. Dayton on Tuesday, ready to begin her term as Franken's replacement in the Senate.
Statements from Governor Mark Dayton and Senator-Designee Tina Smith:
DAYTON: “I have worked with many superb public officials during my forty-year career; Tina Smith stands foremost among them. Tina has the highest integrity and ability. I know that she will be a superb Senator, representing the best interests of our state and our citizens. Over the past few weeks, I have greatly enjoyed getting to know our state’s new Lieutenant Governor, Michelle Fischbach. I look forward to our building a good working relationship in the year ahead.”
SMITH: "It has been my great honor to serve the people of Minnesota as our Lieutenant Governor. I am grateful to Minnesotans, and to Governor Mark Dayton, for entrusting me with the opportunity to represent our state in this office these last three years. I am proud of the work we have done together to build a Better Minnesota. I look forward to continuing that work in Washington, D.C., and working hard to deliver results and improve the lives of Minnesotans as our United States Senator.”