New Sen. Smith to Prioritize Rural Broadband, Child Care and Paid Leave

Replacement for Franken to be sworn in on Wednesday

Former Vice President Walter Mondale, center, will swear-in Lt. Gov Tina Smith, D-Minn., left, as she replaces Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who announced his resignation last month. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As she replaces retiring Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith said she plans on prioritizing expanding rural broadband, paid family leave, and child care.

Smith, a member of the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune she will also look for opportunities to work with Republican colleagues.

“There are fundamental differences in values and approaches between me and the president and some of my new Republican colleagues,” she said. “But I am looking forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle on places where we could accomplish something.”

But just 10 months after her appointment by Gov. Mark Dayton, Smith will have to mount a campaign in a special election in the same year as incumbent Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Smith said she has also spoken  with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, Minority Whip Dick Durbin, and Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington State, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. 

“There are a thousand details when you first join the Senate, and there are many, many rules that are difficult to master,” she said, adding that the other senators have “given me the good advice that I should not worry about that too much right away.”

Franken made his first speech last week since announcing his resignation and posted it on Facebook.

But despite Franken’s announcement amid multiple reports of sexual harassment and inappropriate touching of women, a poll by Public Policy Polling found many Minnesotans did not want Franken to resign.

The poll found that only 50 percent of voters polled wanted Franken to follow through with his plan while 42 did not want him to resign.

Moreover, 57 percent of women in the state approve of his job performance, compared with 37 percent who disapprove of it.

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