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Minnesota governor taps a former Planned Parenthood VP to replace Al Franken in the Senate

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton introduces Lt. Governor Tina Smith as the replacement to Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Wednesday at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota. Franken announced last week that he will resign after multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton plans to appoint Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to replace Democratic Sen. Al Franken as the state’s next senator, the governor announced Wednesday.

What happened?

Franken announced his intention to resign from the Senate last week amid sexual misconduct allegations. Some had speculated that Franken might have sought to remain in office had Alabama Republican candidate Roy Moore been elected to the Senate. Moore, who was accused of pursuing sexual encounters with teenagers and molesting a 14-year-old girl, lost Tuesday’s special election to Democrat Doug Jones.

Dayton announced that when Franken resigns, Smith will be appointed to the seat. In a statement, Dayton said Smith “is a person of the highest integrity and ability.”

“There is no one I trust more to assume the responsibilities of this important office,” he said. “I know that she will be a superb senator, representing the best interests of our state and our citizens.”

Smith said in a statement that she would accept the appointment “and it will be my great honor to serve Minnesota as United States Senator.”

“Though I never anticipated this moment, I am resolved to do everything I can to move Minnesota forward,” Smith said. “I will be a fierce advocate in the United States Senate for economic opportunity and fairness for all Minnesotans.”

Dayton and Smith are both members of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, a state party affiliated with the national Democratic Party. DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said in a statement that Smith is “a true public servant.”

“I have had the great privilege of working with Tina in many different capacities over two decades, and she is one of the most trusted and respected leaders we have in Minnesota,” Martin said. “Whether it’s behind the scenes or out front, Tina has contributed greatly to building a better Minnesota. Her strong character and consensus-building approach have gained her respect on both sides of the aisle, and will serve her well in Washington. I know she will make our state incredibly proud.”

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Smith’s appointment will mark the first time the state will have two female U.S. senators. Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the state’s senior senator, said in a statement to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press that Smith “has shown herself to be a capable and effective leader who has worked to improve the lives of Minnesotans.”

“I look forward to working with Lieutenant Governor Smith on these critical issues,” Klobuchar added.

Franken said in a statement that Smith “will make an excellent United States Senator.”

“She is a dedicated public servant who’s worked tirelessly on behalf of Minnesotans, and Governor Dayton couldn't have made a better choice for this job,” Franken said. “Her record of accomplishments as Lieutenant Governor demonstrates that she’ll be an effective senator who knows how to work across party lines to get things done for Minnesota. I look forward to working with her on ensuring a speedy and seamless transition.”

The Star Tribune reported Smith plans to run for the seat in a 2018 special election. The winner of that election will be expected to run again in 2020 for a full six-year term.

Who is Tina Smith?

Smith, 59, of Minneapolis, once worked as chief of staff for Dayton prior to becoming lieutenant governor. According to the Star Tribune, Smith previously worked in marketing at General Mills, founded a public relations firm, and worked on DFL campaigns.

Smith was once the vice president of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. Planned Parenthood celebrated her announced appointment in a tweet:

After Smith left Planned Parenthood in 2006, she worked as chief of staff for then-Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

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