Tina Smith was officially sworn into the U.S. Senate Wednesday afternoon by Vice President Mike Pence.
The former Minnesota lieutenant governor was selected to take over Al Franken’s Senate seat in December after the lawmaker resigned over various allegations of sexual harassment.
When he appointed Smith, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, said she is “extremely intelligent, quick to learn and always open to hearing other views.”
Smith was escorted by former Vice President Walter Mondale, also a former Minnesota senator, on Wednesday.
What is Smith’s political background?
Like Dayton and Franken, Smith, 59, is a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.
Smith has been a longtime adviser to Dayton, serving as his chief of staff before becoming lieutenant governor.
She has also worked on multiple campaigns, including managing Walter Mondale’s unsuccessful 2002 Senate run as well as his son Ted Mondale’s 1998 gubernatorial campaign – which was also unsuccessful. She was the chief of staff for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak before joining Dayton.
It was thought that she may have run for governor earlier this year to replace Dayton in 2018 but ultimately passed on the gubernatorial bid.
Lawrence Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, said that Smith “doesn’t come across like other kind of major politicians,” citing such examples as Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
“She’s soft-spoken. She would prefer to be in a room negotiating or talking with people than giving a political speech. That’s not really her style,” Jacobs said. “She can do it, but it’s something that she’s had to learn.”
During the presidential election, Smith campaigned for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Clinton won Minnesota by a little more than 1 percent.
What else has Smith done?
Originally from Albuquerque, N.M., Smith moved to Minnesota in 1984 for a marketing job with General Mills. She grew more politically active in the 1990s, founding her own marketing and consulting firm.
Smith served as the vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota from 2003 to 2006.
“She has excellent relationships in the business community,” Jacobs said, adding that Minnesota business leaders “speak fondly” of Smith as someone who understands their issues and is pragmatic.
Smith received her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and has an MBA from Dartmouth College. She is married with two children.
What will she bring to Washington?
Prior to Dayton’s announcement, Minnesota DFL Party Chair Ken Martin told Minnesota Public Radio that Smith “would be a brilliant choice in a lot of ways.”
“She’s been a great lieutenant governor. I would argue probably the best lieutenant governor our state has ever seen,” he said. “She’s a true public servant who’s served this state in many roles.”
Jacobs described Smith as an “almost throwback to another time, someone who is thoughtful, built strong personal relationships and is fact-based.”
As for her voting record, Jacobs said Minnesotans can expect her to vote similarly to Minnesota’s other Democratic senator, Amy Klobuchar: pragmatic and along party lines while still looking for ways to partner with Republicans.
Franken praised the appointment of Smith, who he called a “dedicated public servant.”
“Her record of accomplishment as Lieutenant Governor demonstrates that she’ll be an effective senator who knows how to work across party lines to get things done for Minnesota,” he said in a statement.
But National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Michael McAdams slammed Smith as “another DFL insider handpicked by Mark Dayton.”
“The last thing Minnesotans want is a political operative committed to raising taxes while representing them in the U.S. Senate,” he said.
Due to Minnesota election laws, Smith would serve in Franken’s seat until 2018 when a special election would be held, and the winner would serve for the remainder of Franken’s term – until January 2021.
Smith would not be obligated to run in the 2018 special election, but she is expected to do so, Fox News has learned.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.