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Minn. Gov. Dayton picks chief of staff as running mate

Answering a reporter's question Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, Tina Smith says she will work for all Minnesotans if she and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, right, are elected this fall. FORUM NEWS SERVICE/Don Davis2 / 2

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton did not look far to find a new running mate.

To a cheering crowd at a Capitol-area union hall, Dayton announced this morning that his chief of staff, Tina Flint Smith, will replace Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon as he seeks a second term this fall.

“Her success comes from bringing people together,” Dayton said about Smith, who worked behind the scenes to bring together a stadium construction plan and to lay the groundwork for state funding to help Rochester prepare for an expanded Mayo Clinic.

In much of Dayton's three years in office Smith has been more visible than Prettner Solon, who opted against running for a second term after complaining last summer that she and Dayton seldom talked and she had little say in the administration.

After his announcement today, Dayton promised that Smith would be involved in the administration but did not give details.

With Smith, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party will put forth an all-Minneapolis team in November. Dayton lived there before moving to his official state residence in St. Paul and Smith lives there.

Dayton and Smith said they look at the state as one.

In her speech at the campaign rally, Smith mentioned Dayton’s efforts to help sugar beet growers in western Minnesota and Duluth flood victims.

"I think people make too much of these differences," Smith said later. "We are representing all of Minnesota, not just parts of Minnesota."

The governor said that no one has more experience around the state than he does.

"I live in Minnesota," he said. "For 37 years, I have been traveling around the state. I have traveled around the state more than any politician right now. I know this state."

Republicans immediately attacked Dayton's pick.

Long-time Republican activist Ben Golnik, now head of the Minnesota Jobs Coalition, called the Democratic ticket the most liberal in Minnesota history. He said Dayton "has turned his back on the nearly 5 million Minnesotans who don't live in the City of Lakes."

Before joining the Dayton administration, Smith was chief of staff to then-Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. Smith began her career at General Mills, founded a marketing and communications firm that served foundations and businesses and is a veteran of dozens of local, state and national political campaigns.

Smith has been Dayton's go-to staffer for several projects, including an effort to streamline state government.

In Minnesota, the governor candidate typically picked his running mate, who is rubber stamped by state convention delegates when they meet in the spring.

Smith immediately resigned her chief of staff job so she can begin campaigning around the state. Deputy Chief of Staff Jaime Tincher will replace her.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.