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One Minnesota or all-Minneapolis ticket?

Tina Smith gestures toward Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton Tuesday after he announced that she will be his running mate. Smith’s husband and two sons are behind her. Left, Tina Smith listens as Dayton announces that she will be his running mate in this year’s election. FORUM NEWS SERVICE/Don Davis

Gov. Mark Dayton leads an all-Minnesota or all-Minneapolis Democratic ticket in the 2014 election campaign, depending on who is telling the story.

Tuesday’s announcement of Tina Smith as his running mate drew immediate criticism from Republicans and questions from political reporters accustomed to seeing attempts to geographically balance governor-lieutenant governor tickets.

Dayton and Smith said they look at the state as one and tried to downplay the fact that both are from Minneapolis. Dayton lived in Minneapolis before moving to the official governor’s residence in St. Paul.

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 played up his travels around the state.

“For 37 years, I have been traveling around the state,” Dayton said. “I have traveled around the state more than any politician right now. I know this state.”

Republicans immediately attacked Dayton’s pick.

Long-time GOP 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.”

The only Republican governor candidate from outside the Twin Cities, former state lawmaker Marty Seifert of Marshall, said that Dayton’s pick sent a message.

“While the policies of Mark Dayton’s first term have already put greater Minnesota on the back burner, his selection of another Minneapolis resident for the 2014 (lieutenant governor) position only confirms that this disregard for Minnesotans outside of the urban core will continue,” Seifert said.

Democrats praised the choice.

“With the selection of Tina Smith, Gov. Dayton has chosen a lieutenant governor candidate with business savvy, Minnesota roots and extensive experience in working with Minnesotans from across the state,” House Majority Leader Erin Murphy of St. Paul said.

Smith will replace Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon of Duluth as Dayton seeks a second term this fall. Prettner Solon, who was not at Tuesday’s announcement, complained last summer that she was not part of the administration and last month announced she would not seek a second term with Dayton.

“Her success comes from bringing people together,” Dayton said about Smith, 55, who worked behind the scenes on a stadium construction plan and to lay the groundwork for state funding to help Rochester prepare for an expanded Mayo Clinic.

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 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.