Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D.) announced the appointment of Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on Wednesday to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Al Franken, who announced his resignation last week due to sexual misconduct allegations.
Smith will also run for the seat in a 2018 special election, according to the Minnesota Star-Tribune,
She previously served as Dayton's chief of staff during his first term before being elected Lieutenant Governor in 2014, and she previously held roles at General Mills and Planned Parenthood.
"She will be a senator of whom all Minnesotans can be proud," Dayton said, calling her intelligent, quick to learn and open to hearing others' views.
NEW: MN Gov. Mark Dayton announces appointment of Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to replace Sen. Al Franken. "She will be a senator of whom all Minnesotans can be proud." https://t.co/O9IQkjnRq7 pic.twitter.com/EWK3F93xvU
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) December 13, 2017
Franken initially indicated he would not step down after multiple women came forward over the past month alleging he had groped them or kissed them without permission, but a flood of Democratic senators announced last week they thought Franken should resign.
The decision did not come with much political risk for the Democratic Party, as Dayton was sure to replace Franken with another Democrat.
In a defiant speech on the Senate floor, Franken said he would step down in the "coming weeks," but he did not apologize for his actions and said some of the charges against him were not true. He has not yet set a date for his last day in office.
The Star-Tribune also reported Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.) will not run for the Senate seat in 2018. Ellison is a staunch progressive who serves as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee.
Smith's race next year will be closely watched as Republicans try to hold onto their narrow Senate majority, which will stand at just 51-49 in 2018 after Democrat Doug Jones' surprising victory in Alabama.
Minnesota stayed blue in the 2016 election but it was surprisingly close, with Donald Trump losing to Hillary Clinton by just 1.5 percentage points. No Republican has won Minnesota in a presidential election since Richard Nixon in 1972.