Minnesota's Democratic Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith was appointed as US senator on Wednesday to replace Al Franken, who resigned after being accused of sexual harassment, the state's governor said at a news conference.
Smith, who served as Dayton's chief of staff during Dayton's first term, name-dropped the liberal lions who'd held the seat now occupied by Franken, and said she intends to live up to their legacies.
Smith was widely viewed as Dayton's preference to fill the seat. Her husband, Scott Fischbach, leads the state's largest anti-abortion group, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life.
"Though I never anticipated this moment", Smith said, "I am resolved to do everything I can to move Minnesota forward, and I will be a fierce advocate in the United States Senate for the economic opportunity and fairness".
"This is a hard moment for us but even now I am now filled with optimism", she said. "As I take on this new position, in this extraordinary time we are in, I will do my best to move this legacy forward, toward a better, more inclusive and more just future for all of us".
Smith, a Democrat, has served as Minnesota's 48th lieutenant governor since January 2015.
According to a draft plan obtained by the AP on Wednesday, the Paynesville Republican was told by the Senate Counsel's office that the Minnesota Constitution allows the Senate president to hold both jobs, so that's what she plans to do for the remainder of Dayton's term. The former comedian has denied some of the allegations against him and questioned others. Reuters has not independently verified the accusations against Franken. "And I believe the way to do that is to be the best senator I can be", Smith said. She said she respected his decision to resign.
"Sexual harassment is disrespectful to people, and it can't be tolerated", Smith said.
Fischbach will become lieutenant governor when the woman in that job, Tina Smith, becomes USA senator.
"Her record of accomplishment 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", Franken said in a statement on Wednesday. Amy Klobuchar will be the first pair of women senators in Minnesota's history, which feels appropriate, doesn't it?
"My primary duty is to the constituents of Senate District 13", Fischbach said, but like every senator she also can serve all Minnesotans.
The appointment won't change the balance of power in the Senate. That choice quickly triggered major constitutional questions of how she'll be replaced and partisan bickering about the ramifications for the state Senate, where Republicans now hold a one-seat majority.
Smith will be the second Democrat on a path to the Senate in as many days, after Doug Jones' victory in Alabama in Tuesday's special election.