Minnesota Lt. Gov. Smith to join Senate, dive into campaign

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith is vowing to "hit the ground running" as she joins the U.S. Senate this week while preparing to run in November.

Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Smith, his second-in-command, to replace Democratic Sen. Al Franken, who announced his resignation after a string of sexual misconduct allegations. The resignation takes effect Tuesday; Smith will be sworn in by former Vice President Walter Mondale on Wednesday.

Smith told the Star Tribune that she has "fundamental differences in values and approaches" with President Donald Trump and some of her new Republican colleagues.

"But I am looking forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle on places where we could accomplish something," Smith said. She cited infrastructure improvements as an area where the parties could find common ground.

Smith plans to run for the remaining two years of Franken's term in a special election in November, just 10 months away.

"I have a job to do to hit the ground running and be the most effective senator I can be," Smith told the newspaper, "and also to go to Minnesotans and ask for their support as I run for Senate in 2018."

Smith said she doesn't yet know whether she will take over Franken's committee assignments. But most of Franken's staff about 50 employees is staying on in Washington and Minnesota.

An early priority for Smith will be making sure all Minnesota businesses have needed internet access, no matter their location.

"If I am a small business person from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, I have access to high-speed internet," Smith said. "But if I'm trying to create and grow a business out of my grandparents' farmhouse outside Fergus Falls, I can't do that. ... That's another example of an issue where there's a lot we can accomplish at the federal level."

Smith has signed a lease for an apartment a mile from Capitol Hill. She plans a subdued celebration with family and close friends on the day of her swearing-in. She also plans a series of community events in Minnesota soon after taking office.

Dayton, a one-term senator from 2001 to 2007, praised Smith at a recent news conference for her ability to work well with people across the political spectrum.

But he added: "No single member is going to be able to reverse the trends that have made it more divisive and more gridlocked and less responsive to the real needs of the country."


Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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