Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith, a Democrat, was named Wednesday to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Al Franken in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations leveled by several women against him.
“She genuinely likes people, and people like her,” Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton said in appointing the 59-year-old Smith, who formerly was his chief of staff before becoming his running mate in the 2014 state election. “She has impeccable integrity and the highest personal and professional standards.”
Smith’s appointment is for the next year, but she said she plans to run in a special 2018 election next November to fill out the last two years of Franken’s six-year term.
The demise of Franken’s Washington tenure unfolded over the last few weeks. It was touched off by claims made by a Los Angeles radio host and former model, Leeann Tweeden. She accused Franken of forcibly kissing her when they both were on a 2006 tour to entertain U.S. troops in the Middle East. Tweeden posted a picture of a smiling Franken groping her breasts while she was sleeping on a return flight to the United States.
Franken apologized to Tweeden, but soon after other women also accused the one-time television and film comedian of unwanted advances.
He variously apologized, said the incidents did not occur or said he remembered the encounters differently. But as the allegations mounted, dozens of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate demanded that he resign.
Franken announced his resignation in a defiant speech on the Senate floor, saying it was ironic that he was quitting even as Donald Trump remains in office after more than a dozen women accused the president of unwanted sexual advances during his 2016 campaign for the White House.
Trump, a Republican, says none of the accusations against him is true, but he is facing new calls from Democratic lawmakers to answer the specific allegations. Six senators, all Democrats, have called for his resignation.