Senator Tina Smith, who was appointed by Governor Mark Dayton to replace Senator Al Franken after his resignation, will run in 2018 to be elected to finish Franken’s term. Smith is a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, which is affiliated with the Democratic Party. She is an experienced political leader and was the Lt. Governor of Minnesota when chosen by Dayton to fill Franken’s seat. Smith is running to serve the two years remaining of Franken’s term and if elected would have to run again in 2020 for a full six-year term.
Background and Achievements
After graduation from Stanford University, Smith earned a Master’s in Business Administration from Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business She worked for General Mills initially and then started her own marketing and consulting firm for non-profits and profit-making businesses. In the 1990s she became active in Minnesota local and state politics. She was the campaign manager for former Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale when he ran for Senator after the 1996 sudden death of Senator Paul Wellstone in a plane crash. After Mondale’s narrow lost, Smith became vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Senator Smith left Planned Parenthood to serve as chief of staff to both Minneapolis Mayor Rybak. She later served as co-chair of Governor Mark Dayton’s transition team and his chief of staff. When Dayton ran for re-election in 2014 he chose Smith to be his running mate for Lt. Governor.
Positions on Key Issues
- Strong advocate for women’s right, LGBT rights, workers’ rights
- Strong supporter of women’s access to reproductive healthcare, abortion, and birth control
- Strong supporter of public education—from early childhood to higher education; fought for all-day kindergarten and expanded early childhood programs as well as affordable college education
- Advocate for immigrant and refugee families
- Advocate for environmental protection and fighter against efforts to rollback responsible environmental policies, and efforts that threatens public health
Prospects & Opponents
Senator Smith will be challenged in the Democratic primary by Richard Painter, who recently left the GOP to become an Independent and suddenly decided to become a Democrat for this challenge. He announced his challenge on April 30th. Painter served in the George W. Bush administration as the White House’s chief ethics lawyer. He is a University of Minnesota professor of corporate law. In his role as vice chair of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) he has become a high profile critic (on CableTV and Twitter) of the Trump Administration. CREW filed a court challenge against President Trump for conflicts of interest or violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. The case was dismissed in December. Senator Smith also faces in the general election Republican Karin Housley, who was elected in 2012 to the Minnesota State Senate. Senator Smith is favored to win both the primary and the general election.
- Feminist Majority
- EMILY's List
- Human Rights Campaign Fund
- League of Conservation Voters
- Moms Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate Distinction
- NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota
- Minnesota AFL-CIO
- SEIU Minnesota
- Planned Parenthood Action Fund
- Population Connection Action Fund