Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith named as Al Franken's replacement in Senate

Minnesota's Lt. Gov. Tina Smith will head to Washington to temporary fill the Senate seat left vacant by Sen. Al Franken, who announced his resignation last week in the midst of sexual misconduct allegations and an Ethics Committee investigation.

"Though I never anticipated this moment, I'm resolved to do everything that I can to move Minnesota forward, and I will be a fierce advocate in the United States Senate for economic opportunity and fairness," Smith said Wednesday from the state Capitol.

"This is a difficult moment for us, but even now I am filled with optimism for Minnesota."

Smith was appointed today by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to serve until January 2019, when the winner of a November 2018 special election to fill Franken's seat will be sworn in.

Smith said that she intends to run in the special election, adding that it's "up to Minnesotans to decide for themselves who they want to complete Sen. Franken's term."

Franken announced on the Senate floor last Thursday that he will be stepping down after several women accused him of groping them years before he became a senator. Smith thanked Franken today for his service in the Senate.

Franken applauded Smith's appointment today in a statement. He has not set an official date for leaving the Senate but promised he will help with the transition process.

"She is a dedicated public servant who's worked tirelessly on behalf of Minnesotans, and Gov. Dayton couldn't have made a better choice for this job. 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. I look forward to working with her on ensuring a speedy and seamless transition," his statement read.

The timing of Franken's resignation allowed Dayton, a Democrat, to appoint a replacement.

Minnesota state law stipulates that in the event of a vacancy in the U.S. Senate, a special election "shall be held at the next November election if the vacancy occurs at least 11 weeks before the regular state primary preceding that election."

Dayton said in making his decision he wanted an appointee who would run in the special election, giving "Minnesotans someone to size up and assess."

Because Franken resigned 35 weeks before the next regular state primary, Aug. 14, 2018, according to state law, the governor "may make a temporary appointment to fill any vacancy" until a successor is elected and sworn in.

During his speech last week, he appeared to hint that his replacement would be a woman.

"But Minnesotans deserve a senator who can focus with all her energy on addressing the challenges they face every day," Franken said.

Asked if President Donald Trump should resign because he faces sexual misconduct allegations and congressional investigations, Smith said she plans to remain focused on the job at hand.

"I'm going to be focused completely over the next couple of weeks on getting ready to become a senator and moving into Washington, D.C., the first of January, and I'm not going to get into a bunch of the discussion about what's going in Washington right now," Smith said.

But she added that "sexual harassment is disrespectful" and "can't be tolerated."

Smith was elected lieutenant governor in 2014. She served as Dayton's chief of staff before being tapped as his running mate in his second campaign for governor.

ABC News' John Verhovek contributed to this story.
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