Al Franken's Replacement Has Less Than 20% Name Recognition, Faces Reelection in November

Sen. Tina Smith (L) is ceremonially sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence
Sen. Tina Smith is ceremonially sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence / Getty Images
January 8, 2018

Minnesota's newly appointed Democratic senator Tina Smith, who faces reelection this year, is unknown to over 80 percent of people in the state, according to a survey conducted late last year.

Smith, formerly the state's lieutenant governor, was tapped by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D.) to take the seat vacated by former Sen. Al Franken (D.,), who resigned after numerous groping accusations. Though Smith was just sworn-in last Wednesday, she faces reelection in 10 months and Republicans such as former governor Tim Pawlenty and former congresswoman Michele Bachmann, both household names in the state, are rumored to be considering challenging her.

One obstacle for Smith will be name recognition, according to a finding from a poll of 600 Minnesota likely voters by the Terrance Group that more than 80 percent had no idea who she was.

November's election will mark the first time Smith's name will stand alone on a statewide election ballot—she was Dayton's chief of staff during his first term as governor and was his running-mate for his reelection in 2015. She previously worked for numerous Democratic campaigns in Minnesota and was vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood's regional chapter.

Republicans see a new opportunity to flip the seat with Smith's appointment, which they are characterizing as one of the "worst" in history.

"Tina Smith’s abysmal name ID makes her one of the worst appointments in history if Democrats intend to keep this seat," said Michael McAdams, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Not only will Smith have to introduce herself to Minnesota voters for the first time, but she will have to do so while defending a voting record that mirrors Elizabeth Warren's."

Smith says she shouldn't be "underestimated" and is "confident" she can hold the seat.

"I shouldn’t be underestimated, and if I weren’t confident, I wouldn’t be doing this," she said.

Published under: 2018 Election , Tina Smith