The state’s union leaders reacted positively to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s appointment of Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat created by Al Franken’s resignation.
Franken, beset by accusations of improper sexual conduct, stepped down from his Senate seat on January 2, 2018. Smith will assume the seat on January 3.
In the U.S. Senate, Franken had earned a voting record as high as 99 percent or even 100 percent on working family issues tracked by the AFL-CIO.
With Dayton’s December 13 announcement tapping Smith to replace Franken, union leaders were quick to endorse the choice.
“Tina Smith in the United States Senate is good news for working Minnesotans,” said Bill McCarthy, Minnesota AFL-CIO president.
“For the last seven years, Tina Smith has been Governor Dayton’s partner in building a better Minnesota,” McCarthy said. “Be it raising the minimum wage, strengthening our state’s infrastructure, or expanding working people’s freedom to join together in union, Lieutenant Governor Smith has been there to help get key legislation across the finish line. She’s has been a leader on reducing healthcare costs and combating Minnesota’s opioid crisis; expertise that she will carry to the Senate.
“Minnesota’s labor movement offers our congratulations to Lieutenant Governor Smith and stands ready to assist her as she transitions to her new role representing Minnesotans in Washington,” McCarthy said.
Craig Olson, secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota State Building and Construction Trades Council, also praised Dayton’s choice of Smith: “Minnesotans will be well-served when Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith moves into her new role as our U.S. Senator. Tina has been a champion for the Building Trades community here in our state, and will continue as that message is delivered to a larger national audience. Thumbs up to Governor Dayton; a great pick.”
AFSCME Council 5 also strongly supported Smith’s appointment.
“There is no one more qualified or capable than Tina Smith to represent all Minnesotans in the United States Senate,” says Judy Wahlberg, president of AFSCME Council 5. “Tina’s entire career has prepared her for this job at a time when all of us need more strong women in the halls of power.”
“Tina is a proven champion for women and working families,” Wahlberg said. “She has worked tirelessly for paid parental leave and pay equity. Thanks to Tina, parents can bond with their newborns and women are treated as equals in state service. We need her voice in Washington.”
Smith joined Dayton as his running-mate in 2014 when he was elected to a second term.
She had served Dayton in his first term as governor as his chief of staff.
She previously had served as chief of staff to Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak.
Smith will serve until a special election in November 2018 when voters will choose who fills out the remaining two years of Franken’s term.
In accepting Dayton’s appointment to the U.S. Senate, Smith declared, “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.”
Smith also announced that she will run next year in the special election for the two years that remain in Franken’s term.
“I will run in that election, and I will do my best to earn Minnesotans’ support,” Smith said. “I believe the way to do that is by being the best Senator I can be.”
“This Senate seat has a strong, abiding legacy of service and social justice that runs back to Paul Wellstone, Walter Mondale, Gene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey. As I take on this new position, in this extraordinary time we are in, I will do my best to move this legacy forward, toward a better, more inclusive and more just future for all of us.”