Watch CBS News

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith Mulls '18 Run

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's preferred appointee to fill Sen. Al Franken's Senate seat, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, is considering also running for the seat next year, as Dayton is being pressured by top Democrats in Washington to appoint more than a mere caretaker, according to two Democrats familiar with the discussions.

Franken said Thursday he would resign over allegations of sexual harassment, leaving Dayton to appoint a replacement until a special election next November to complete Franken's term, which runs through 2020.

Read More: After Franken's Fall: Sudden Senate Pickup Chance For GOP

Dayton's initial inclination was to pick Smith, a longtime aide and his second-in-command since 2015, to serve as a caretaker until next year's election, a Democratic official told The Associated Press. The official requested anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss private deliberations surrounding the appointment before Dayton's announcement.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (credit: CBS)

The official said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has reached out to Dayton and pressured him to instead appoint someone who can use the opportunity as a running start for a 2018 campaign.

A senior Senate Democratic aide confirmed that Senate Democrats do not want a placeholder appointee. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity to freely discuss private discussions.

Amid that pushback, Smith is now considering running for the seat next year, according to the official and a separate Democratic operative familiar with the discussions surrounding the appointment. Smith had previously explored a run for Minnesota governor in 2018, when Dayton's second and final term ends, but she ruled it out this spring.

Smith did not immediately reply to a text or voicemail seeking comment.

Speaking to reporters earlier Friday, Dayton reiterated he plans to make the appointment "in the next couple days" but would not discuss the factors or candidates he is weighing.

Read More: Pawlenty Says He May Run For Franken's Seat

Smith, 59, has a bachelor's degree from Stanford and an MBA from Dartmouth. She first moved to Minnesota to work for General Mills in marketing before starting her own business.

She ran former Vice President Walter Mondale's brief Senate campaign in 2002 after Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash. She also served as a top executive at Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

She is largely known for behind the scenes work, having served as Dayton's chief of staff before becoming his lieutenant governor. Dayton has long treated her as a near-equal partner in his administration, often representing him at important events, and she was widely seen as being groomed to succeed him.

But she announced last spring that she wouldn't run, calling it a personal decision. She said at the time that she was comfortable in her role as Dayton's No. 2.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.