Smith Looks to Balance Senate Duties, 2018 Campaign

January 11, 2018 09:59 PM

Minnesota's new U.S. Senator Tina Smith landed some key committee assignments this week - including the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committees - that she says will allow her to focus on issues important to Minnesotans.

"All of them deal one way or another with real kind of pocketbook, bread-and-butter issues that Minnesotans are concerned about," Smith told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS Thursday.


"The farm bill is a perfect example with agriculture being so important to Minnesota's economy."

In addition to agriculture, Smith will also serve on committees dealing with health, education, labor and pensions; energy and natural resources and Indian affairs.

Carleton College political scientist Steven Schier said serving on the agriculture committee will be important for Smith because Republicans will try to paint her as a Minneapolis liberal out of touch with rural Minnesota.

"Tina Smith actually faces a lot of pressure right now," Schier says. "She has Washington duties, but there's a tremendous urgency to get known among Minnesotans.

So she's gotta be all over the state all the time."

What issues do you think Tina Smith should take up first during her time in the Senate? Send her your thoughts below.

Smith will be in Minnesota Friday, holding meetings about the farm bill and talking to the media. She also plans to attend the Minnesota Vikings playoff game Sunday.

The 2018 Senate campaign might unofficially begin Monday when Republican state Sen. Karin Housley kicks off her U.S. Senate campaign with a rally in Stillwater.

Smith said she's starting to ramp up her own campaign, but jokes she has to do it in her "spare time" while performing her Senate duties.

"This is what happens in Minnesota," she said. "This is what happens in America. People decide if they want to run, and then they run and I'm just not worried about that.

"I'm focused on doing my very best as senator and encouraged by the support I'm getting."

Smith, Housley and anyone else who runs might have to raise possibly tens of millions of dollars.

In 2008, Norm Coleman and Al Franken each spent more than $21 million. In 2014, Franken spent nearly $32 million to get re-elected, compared to $7 million spent by Republican challenger Mike McFadden.

"This is a seat that looked to be a safe Democratic seat with Al Franken in it for the foreseeable future," Schier says. "That's no longer the case. Pressure's on the Democrats to save the seat."



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