Newly appointed, presumptive U.S. Sen. Tina Smith speaks to reporters Wednesday, shortly after Gov. Mark Dayton publicly announced she would step down as lieutenant governor to become a U.S. senator. Dayton appointed Smith just five days after Sen. Al Franken resigned under pressure after eight women accused him of sexual harassment and groping, charges he denies.
Smith said she will compete to retain the seat in a November 2018 special election. Asked if she is confident she can raise tens of millions of dollars to run campaigns both in 2018 and again in 2020, she was unfazed. “I can tell you I shouldn’t be underestimated,” she said. “If I weren’t confident, I wouldn’t be doing this.”
If her appointment goes through — Franken has yet to formally resign — state Senate President Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, would take over as lieutenant governor. Citing an 1898 Supreme Court decision, Fischbach said Wednesday that she can and will serve in the Dayton administration while retaining her Senate seat. Dayton said his counsel believes Fischbach can’t do that and he has asked Attorney General Lori Swanson for a formal opinion. Unless some kind of accord is reached, the rift could set the stage for yet another lawsuit pitting the governor against legislators.