First, Smith replaces Al Franken, following his resignation amid sexual misconduct allegations, and that feels like triumph in and of itself. Next, her designation ups the tally of women serving in the chamber to an unprecedented high of 22. Minnesota also became the sixth state ever (the fourth currently) to be represented by all-female senators. And finally, Smith is believed to be the only former Planned Parenthood official in history to be appointed senator, reports Teen Vogue. ("While former staffers and supporters have most certainly sought or served in public office before, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Federation of America told Teen Vogue that she was unaware of any other alumni in the U.S. Senate in the last 50 years, and that it’s possible Smith is the first ever.")
In addition to her tenure as Planned Parenthood's vice president for public affairs, Smith's resume lists numerous other examples of quality job prep. With a background in marketing, Smith began working on political campaigns in the early 1990s. Immediately before this latest legislative appointment, she was Minnesota's lieutenant governor, beginning her term in 2015 and working with Governor Mark Dayton.
According to a post from the office of Governor Dayton, the governor credits Smith with some impressive social and economic efforts on behalf of the state's citizens—including "expanding paid parental leave, cracking down on wage theft, combatting the opioid crisis, growing Minnesota’s clean energy economy, improving access to high-speed Internet, enrolling tens of thousands of children in high-quality, early-learning programs, and increasing access to jobs and economic opportunity for all Minnesotans."
Governor Dayton also had some more personal remarks about Tina's qualifications for her new role. “Tina Smith is a person of the highest integrity and ability," he said in that same post. "There is no one I trust more to assume the responsibilities of this important office. I know that she will be a superb senator, representing the best interests of our state and our citizens.”
For Smith's part, she responded to news of her senate invitation by stating, “I accept this appointment, and it will be my great honor to serve Minnesota as United States senator. Though I never anticipated this moment, I am resolved to do everything I can to move Minnesota forward. I will be a fierce advocate in the United States Senate for economic opportunity and fairness for all Minnesotans.”
And can we depend on Smith to be an equally passionate champion of the women's and reproductive rights she's been affiliated with in her past?
Sarah Stoesz—president of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota—seems to think yes! Stoesz praised Smith as a “powerful, moving force for justice," in a statement circulated by Planned Parenthood. "In every position Tina has held, she has brought her strategic leadership, her finely honed negotiating skills, her business acumen and her passion for women’s health and rights—and we are all better for it. . . . We can absolutely count on Tina Smith to be a bold leader for the people of our state during this very difficult time in our country.”
Smith herself said during a press conference at the Minnesota capitol this past December, “The work that I did at Planned Parenthood helped provide health insurance, health care, and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and cancer screenings to thousands and thousands and thousands of women. I’m proud of that work."
Here's to hoping 2018 is crammed with all kinds of work on women's behalf that can fill Smith with pride. Congrats, Senator!