Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith as the choice to take over Democrat Al Franken’s seat in the U.S. Senate, resembles a “House of Cards” scenario according Matt Pagano, Executive Director of the Minnesota GOP. Pagano spoke with Media Trackers Communications Director Jerry Bader on the Democrats’ political strategy in choosing Smith to take over Sen. Al Franken’s seat, and what exactly she stands for.
Franken announced his resignation Dec. 7, amid sexual harassment allegations against him. While Franken has yet to officially announce his resignation date, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton this week announced that he appointed Smith to take over his seat in the senate. The Minnesota GOP harshly criticized the pick:
“Today, Governor Dayton announced a powerful and important decision on behalf of all of us in Minnesota. Instead of nominating a leader who can effectively represent all Minnesotans, Governor Dayton chose to play politics with Senator Franken’s replacement. It’s an underhanded ‘House of Cards’ style move. This is clearly an attempt to throw the Republican majority in the Minnesota Senate out of balance. This decision will ripple through the next legislative session. This move is as transparent as it is political. “
Besides Democrats’ political motivation of choosing Smith, Pagano says what makes this choice in replacement even stranger is that few Minnesotans are familiar with Smith:
“A lot of Minnesotans really don’t know a great deal about Tina Smith either as she heads in, there was poll that was released that I saw showed that she had 88 percent of Minnesotans didn’t have an opinion or feel like they knew enough to have an opinion about Tina Smith.”
Along with her little known reputation, questions of her qualification to take over Franken’s seat are also being raised. On the matter Pagano replied:
“I mean she’s worked in government for a long time but I think her positions as we kind of go through this for the first time really with her, are going to show her to be far outside the mainstream of Minnesotans politically. She’s very much been inside the core of the twin cities metro-politics here for a long time and I think she’s going to have a real difficulty in greater Minnesota and rural Minnesota in talking to people on why she’s a good candidate to represent them after the appointment runs out which will be in the 2018 election next year.”
Pagano also likened her beliefs to match Franken’s far left ones:
“She definitely comes out of the staff corridors of the state Democratic party, she’s a former Planned Parenthood Vice President for Minnesota and the Dakotas, she worked with former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and after that she worked within the Dayton administration for being appointed to run with him as his lieutenant Governor in 2014 in his re-election effort.”
“She’s very much to the left politically, and I think that’s something that we’re going to be talking a lot about as we get into what looks like she’ll be running for a term at next years 2018 elections.”
Pagano also supplied some political reasoning behind the Democrats’ choice of Smith, which could potentially tip the Minnesotan Senate’s one GOP seat majority in the senate to a 33-33 tie. According to Pagano Minnesota State statute requires that if the Lieutenant Governor seat is open, the president of the Senate assumes the position:
“As Al Franken exits in disgrace, and Tina Smith takes that seat as an appointee the Lieutenant Governor seat is then open, and according to Minnesota State statute the president of the Senate assumes that position.”“The current president of the Senate is Michelle Fishbach, a Republican state senator who will then become Lieutenant Governor. Good news is we get a Republican Lieutenant Governor in Minnesota, but we currently have a one seat majority in the Minnesota State Senate and so the State Senate caucus and the State Senate leadership is of the opinion, as well as Senator Fischbach, that she can hold both offices, that the statute makes clear that she must then become lieutenant governor in case of a vacancy, but it doesn’t say anything about her having to resign as a State Senator.”“In that model we keep our one seat majority in the Minnesota State Senate. The democrats argument is that she has to resign. I think their argument has serious flaws, I would hope the court sees this as well if this goes to the courts, but their argument then is that she cannot hold that seat which would then put us in a tied 33/33 situation at least until some special elections happen in the Minnesota state senate.”
None of this has been put into motion yet since Franken has yet to announce exactly when he will be leaving the Senate, while some conservatives suspect Franken may not go through with the resignation. Pagano noted he would be “absolutely shocked” at this point if Franken didn’t resign.
The full interview with Executive Director of the Minnesota GOP Matt Pagano can be found here: