On Dec. 7, Al Franken announced that he would be stepping down from his position as senator for Minnesota amidst multiple allegations of sexual misconduct — of which he said, "some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember differently." With his resignation, Franken's seat was up for grabs — and on Dec. 13, Americans learned that it will be temporarily filled by a female politician, which is honestly the most fitting thing that could happen right now. So, who is Tina Smith? New Senate promotion aside, her resume is already super impressive.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton announced his selection of Smith on Dec. 13, explaining that Smith, who currently serves as Minnesota's lieutenant governor, has "dedicated her career to improving Minnesotans’ lives, building an economy that works for all." Smith will serve until January 2019, when the seat is up for grabs again. She will reportedly run in a special election to serve for the rest of Franken's three-year term, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
“Tina Smith is a person of the highest integrity and ability," Dayton said during a press conference announcing her appointment. "There is no one I trust more to assume the responsibilities of this important office. I know that she will be a superb senator, representing the best interests of our state and our citizens.”
Smith's key issues, according to MinnPost, revolved around expanding paid parental leave, fighting the opioid crisis, and developing Minnesota's clean energy economy. She's also pushed for more diversity in state government, and battled against wage theft, which occurs when employers do not pay their employees for work they have already done.
Smith seemed a little taken aback by the turn of events, but took to the lectern to express her enthusiasm about her new position.
“I accept this appointment, and it will be my great honor to serve Minnesota as United States senator,” Smith said. “Though I never anticipated this moment, I am resolved to do everything I can to move Minnesota forward. I will be a fierce advocate in the United States Senate for economic opportunity and fairness for all Minnesotans.”
During the press conference, the lieutenant governor touched on some of the key issues she hopes to tackle while in Senate, including creating a fair working environment for women, funding public schools, and providing more health care coverage to more Americans.
“I will take on this role in my own ways and in my own judgment and experience,” she said.
Smith is taking over after Franken resigned from his post on Dec. 7, with plans to officially step down by the end of the year. In late November and early December, multiple women came forward to accuse Sen. Franken of sexual misconduct, including allegations of groping and kissing a woman without her consent. Franken initially apologized after the first allegation came out, saying, "I respect women. I don't respect men who don't," but took a slightly different stance in his resignation speech.
"Some of the allegations against me are simply not true," he said. "Others I remember very differently."
But with Smith's appointment, you really couldn't ask for better symmetry in this situation. Not only is it great news that we're getting another woman in the Senate (bringing us up to a still-measly 22), but there's also a quiet, important symbolism to Smith taking Franken's place — it's a woman taking over the job of a man who has been accused of sexually harassing women, and thus shifting the balance of gender and power that little bit more.
Franken himself weighed in on the choice, taking to Facebook to announce that he thinks Smith will make an "excellent" choice as United States senator. He wrote,
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. 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.
Well, she's got the support. Hmmm. Yeah. Let's bring Smith into the Senate. Like, right now.