Dayton picks Tina Smith as running mate

The long-standing chief of staff will campaign alongside the governor in the 2014 election.

Meghan Holden

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton announced longtime chief of staff Tina Smith as his running mate for the 2014 election Tuesday morning.

Smith, whose most notable achievements include helping legislation that authorized construction of the Vikings stadium and the Destination Medical Center in Rochester, could help Dayton’s re-election bid this fall with her DFL support and ties to the business community.

“The campaign for an even better Minnesota starts today,” Smith said at a campaign rally at the AFL-CIO labor federation headquarters in St. Paul.

Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon announced last month that she wouldn’t seek re-election, spurring a short search for a new running mate.

Dayton and Smith have worked together since 2010 when Smith joined his
campaign for governor. She was named chief of staff shortly after Dayton’s election. She also previously served as former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak’s chief of staff.

Smith received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University and her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

Dayton’s choice wasn’t a surprise, said Larry Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota.

“Tina, frankly, is a spectacular choice,” he said. “She has the DFL card, hands down.”

Jacobs said Dayton’s campaign could face challenges, like democratic voter turnout, the MNsure launch and President Barack Obama’s low approval ratings.

The team’s lack of ties to greater Minnesota could also hold them back and leave them vulnerable to criticism from the Republican Party, Jacobs said.

But Dayton, who lives in St. Paul, said he and his south Minneapolis counterpart are connected to all areas of the state and their geographical imbalance won’t hurt them.

“I know the state, and I’ve worked with everybody around the state,” he said at the rally.

The University could benefit from having Smith as a lieutenant governor because she lives in the area and has connections to the institution, Jacobs said.

Smith’s keen business sense could also be a crucial part of their campaign because businesses trust her, said Ken Martin, chair of the Minnesota DFL party.

“There’s no one with this perspective or experience who’s ever been in this role before, and we’re very excited about that,” he said.

She has worked at General Mills, founded a Minnesota-based marketing and communications firm, and served as the vice president for external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Tina Smith’s husband, Archie Smith, said her ability to work with different groups will make her a great lieutenant governor.

“She can work with business, she can work with labor, she can work with anybody because she likes getting things done,” he said.

Jaime Tincher, Dayton’s deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs, will take over Smith’s position.