After Al Franken said he would step down over allegations of sexual impropriety, it has been announced that Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith will be his replacement until 2019. She was chosen as Franken’s replacement by the governor, with whom she has worked with closely. Smith may not have known she’d join the Senate this year, but she’s already indicated she’ll be campaigning to keep the seat through the end of what would have been Franken’s full term in 2020. Smith said this of her new role:
“Though I never anticipated this moment, I’m resolved to do everything I can to move Minnesota forward. I’m prepared to do this. I’m qualified to do this. I have a unique role to play here … I will take on this role in my own way using my own judgment and experience.”
That’s good news for those who feel that the recent ouster of several lawmakers over sexual harassment allegations paves the way for more female politicians — even former president Obama has made comments to that effect. However, some Republicans are already panicking, wondering what this means for the Minnesota Senate. The Chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota called the governor’s decision “an underhanded ‘House of Cards’ style move” designed “to throw the Republican majority in the Minnesota Senate out of balance.”
That’s because the state Senate president (Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville) will replace Smith, per the state’s succession plan. So, there’s a possibility that the Minnesota GOP may protest Smith’s appointment by questioning her ability to serve as both a Senator and a lieutenant governor.
It’s hard to argue, however, that Smith’s appointment fails to represent Minnesotans, since she is a Democrat replacing an elected Democrat. But the Republican panic is real right now. After all, it’s not even 2018 and already Senate seats are in flux. Not only is Smith replacing Franken, Doug Jones’ stunning surprise defeat of Roy Moore in an Alabama special election last night upset the GOP‘s hopes of an easy vote on the tax bill, and suggests Democrats may be building an edge ahead of midterm elections. There probably wouldn’t be this much concern about Smith’s appointment if the majority wasn’t worried about losing its grip.