Smith seeks voters' ratification of Senate appointment

Published 11-07-2018

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Voters decided Tuesday between two female candidates to complete former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken's term: a longtime Democratic power player appointed in Franken's place and a Republican state senator with a famous name in the hockey-crazy state.

Less than four years after voters overwhelmingly gave Franken a second term, he was swept out of office when several women accused of him of sexual misconduct. His resignation in December triggered the contest between his replacement, Democratic Sen. Tina Smith, and Republican state Sen. Karin Housley.

Tuesday's election was a rarity in Minnesota, with two U.S. Senate seats on the ballot. Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar easily captured a third term over little-known state Rep. Jim Newberger.

With Franken's departure, Republicans jumped at the unexpected chance to reclaim an office they have not held since former Sen. Norm Coleman lost to Franken by 312 votes in 2008. Housley quickly emerged as the top GOP candidate, with her reputation as a fierce campaigner and a name recognition boost from her husband, former NHL star and Buffalo Sabres head coach Phil Housley.

Republican men, including former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Reps. Tom Emmer and Erik Paulsen, quickly passed on the race, and Housley easily clinched the party's nod in an August primary.

Public polling showed the race close, but it never seriously figured in the nationwide battle for control of the Senate. Outside political organizations with their eyes on the Senate majority spent just a trickle in Minnesota, focusing millions instead on North Dakota, Wisconsin and other more promising states.

Phillip Baum, 63, a self-described moderate conservative in Minnetonka, split his ticket Tuesday, backing Klobuchar in her Senate race but Republican Jeff Johnson for governor. Baum, a general contractor, said he was on the fence in the Smith-Housley race until Smith skipped a televised debate.

"That sent the wrong message for me," Baum said. He voted for Housley.

Sarah Roth, 22, also of Minnetonka, went for Smith as part of a straight-Democratic vote. Roth described herself as a liberal and said she thought it was critical to change the balance of power in the country.

"I think the past couple of years, ever since President Trump has been in office, it has just been not the country that I am used to or that I thought I would be in."

Smith got a head start in the race when Gov. Mark Dayton announced in December that he would appoint her to Franken's seat. Smith had been Dayton's lieutenant governor since 2015 and a longtime trusted aide, serving as his chief of staff after a career spent running campaigns and as a Planned Parenthood executive.

After joining the Senate in January, Smith cultivated an image of a stu

Phillip Baum, 63, a self-described moderate conservative in Minnetonka, split his ticket Tuesday, backing Klobuchar in her Senate race but Republican Jeff Johnson for governor. Baum, a general contractor, said he was on the fence in the Smith-Housley race until Smith skipped a televised debate.

"That sent the wrong message for me," Baum said. He voted for Housley.

Sarah Roth, 22, also of Minnetonka, went for Smith as part of a straight-Democratic vote. Roth described herself as a liberal and said she thought it was critical to change the balance of power in the country.

"I think the past couple of years, ever since President Trump has been in office, it has just been not the country that I am used to or that I thought I would be in."

Smith got a head start in the race when Gov. Mark Dayton announced in December that he would appoint her to Franken's seat. Smith had been Dayton's lieutenant governor since 2015 and a longtime trusted aide, serving as his chief of staff after a career spent running campaigns and as a Planned Parenthood executive.

After joining the Senate in January, Smith cultivated an image of a studious senator with sober, issue-focused ads on tackling pharmaceutical costs and vocational job training. She tried to avoid engaging with Housley throughout the campaign, including skipping a debate televised statewide and leaving Housley alone on stage. Smith said a busy campaign and Senate schedule got in the way, and the pair still had two debates.

But Housley bashed Smith for her absence and spent much of the campaign casting her as a longtime political insider with a hand in major flops during Dayton's administration, including the rocky launch of a new driver-registration system and pervasive abuse and neglect at senior centers statewide.

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For AP's complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

Sarah Roth, 22, also of Minnetonka, went for Smith as part of a straight-Democratic vote. Roth described herself as a liberal and said she thought it was critical to change the balance of power in the country.

"I think the past couple of years, ever since President Trump has been in office, it has just been not the country that I am used to or that I thought I would be in."

Smith got a head start in the race when Gov. Mark Dayton announced in December that he would appoint her to Franken's seat. Smith had been Dayton's lieutenant governor since 2015 and a longtime trusted aide, serving as his chief of staff after a career spent running campaigns and as a Planned Parenthood executive.

After joining the Senate in January, Smith cultivated an image of a studious senator with sober, issue-focused ads on tackling pharmaceutical costs and vocational job training. She tried to avoid engaging with Housley throughout the campaign, including skipping a debate televised statewide and leaving Housley alone on stage. Smith said a busy campaign and Senate schedule got in the way, and the pair still had two debates.

But Housley bashed Smith for her absence and spent much of the campaign casting her as a longtime political insider with a hand in major flops during Dayton's administration, including the rocky launch of a new driver-registration system and pervasive abuse and neglect at senior centers statewide.

___

For AP's complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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