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Dayton taps chief of staff Tina Smith as re-election running mate

Mike Mullen//February 4, 2014//

Dayton taps chief of staff Tina Smith as re-election running mate

Mike Mullen//February 4, 2014//

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Tina Smith, who joined Gov. Mark Dayton's re-election effort, had previously worked for Mayor R.T. Rybak. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher.)
Tina Smith, who joined Gov. Mark Dayton’s re-election effort, had previously worked for Mayor R.T. Rybak. (Staff photo: Peter Bartz-Gallagher.)

Gov. Mark Dayton announced on Tuesday that his chief of staff, Tina Smith, would replace Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon as Dayton’s running mate.

The move brings into the limelight a close confidante who is known to be one of Dayton’s trusted advisers. Smith is credited with helping Dayton navigate through moments of legislative uncertainty throughout his first term, and will now dedicate the next nine months to helping him win another four years in office.

Dayton made the news official at an AFL-CIO union political rally, confirming recent rumors that suggested that Smith would be his choice. Smith became the most obvious choice for the position after Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, said she would not be joining the Dayton campaign.

In a statement that accompanied the announcement, Dayton described Smith as “the best administrator with whom I have ever worked.” The decision marks Smith’s first personal foray into electoral politics, though she does have experience with gubernatorial contests. In 2010, Smith, then chief of staff for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, left that position to manage Rybak’s unsuccessful run for the DFL nomination. Dayton brought Smith on to help run his transition team after his election victory, and later named her his chief of staff.

In that role, Smith has taken on a number of responsibilities. Most notably, Dayton had Smith lead the charge on the proposed Destination Medical Center program for the Rochester Mayo Clinic during the 2013 session, when the fate of that legislation seemed to be in doubt. In a statement issued Tuesday morning, DFL Party chairman Ken Martin praised Smith for her ability to find common ground with people, regardless of party affiliation.

“[Smith] comes to Gov. Dayton’s ticket as a proven leader with a reputation in working across party lines to get results,” Martin said.

Dayton later appointed Smith to serve on the Destination Medical Center Corporation (DMCC) board, and Smith was ultimately named chair of that six-member panel, which is tasked with managing public resources toward the project.

Prior to her employment in city and state government, Smith worked in marketing, first at General Mills and later at her own public affairs firm. She is also a past vice president of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Word of Dayton’s choice was met with critical press releases by a pair of Republican gubernatorial candidates, both of whom made reference to the fact that Smith, like Dayton, hails from the Twin Cities’ urban core. Former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, who represented the town of Marshall during his legislative service, said Smith is “strongly tied to the Minneapolis class of DFL, liberal elite who don’t come close to understanding the needs of most in our state.” Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, argued that the political agenda undertaken by the Dayton administration has “been far too focused on policies that benefit Minneapolis and St. Paul at the expense of Minnesotans across the state.”

Also Tuesday, the Dayton administration announced that Jaime Tincher would step in to take Smith’s place, marking a promotion for the deputy chief of staff and legislative liaison. Before taking that job, Tincher had served as a high-ranking staffer for the House DFL Caucus. Like Smith, Tincher came to the Dayton administration after first working for one of his opponents: She ran Margaret Anderson Kelliher‘s gubernatorial campaign in 2010, organizing an effort that won the DFL endorsement but subsequently lost the primary election to Dayton.

Smith will stay on as chief of staff through Feb. 10.

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