Northland elected officials and Democratic Party leaders on Wednesday praised Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's pick of Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to fill the state's open Senate seat.
Former DFL state Rep. Carly Melin of Hibbing, now a county prosecutor, said Smith is both a good listener and "effective at getting things done." Melin said Smith understands Iron Range issues as well.
"I have no doubt she'll be an effective senator," Melin said. "I've always had a good working relationship with her. And she has always been willing to come up here and hear our issues."
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said she was "thrilled" with Dayton's decision to appoint Smith.
"I've worked very closely with Tina. She is hardworking, incredibly bright and very effective. She has really been a champion for Duluth. She will be terrific for Minnesota, and she will be wonderful for the region."
Larson said she's worked with Smith on a number of different issues, and "every single time, she has been steady, reliable, effective. She really knows how to get work done. She knows how to navigate relationships, and I am sincerely happy for her. ... I'm also happy for her as a friend. She's a really good person."
Frank Jewell, chairman of the St. Louis County Board, said in a statement that Smith has been "a great advocate for issues important to St. Louis County. ... We are confident she will continue to serve our citizens well as senator, and St. Louis County is excited to continue to work with her in her new role."
“It's a great pick for Minnesota. She is one of the most experienced and trusted public officials we have in Minnesota,” said Justin Perpich, 8th District chairman for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. “She has a reputation being a quiet but effective leader behind the scenes who has built many relationships with Minnesotans all across the state.”
Melin said Smith is a viable candidate for the DFL in 2018, noting the lieutenant governor took a very visible role in Dayton's re-election campaign in 2014.
"She's already been on a statewide ballot and she really was out front in the last (Dayton) campaign (in 2014). She's a very hard worker, and I think she'll be a strong DFL candidate in 2018."
Larson said she was pleased that Smith intends to run in 2018.
"You want someone to be as effective as possible for your state, and you want to know that they are invested for not just the term of the appointment but beyond," she said. "And I think (Smith's) colleagues now know that her investment is not just to fulfill an appointment, but to build the relationships necessary to be effective in the long term."
Next November's ballot in Minnesota will include races for governor and two U.S. Senate seats, among others.
"These are really unexpected circumstances," Melin noted. "We already had so many high-profile races in Minnesota in 2018 ... and now we throw another one in the mix. It's going to be an interesting year."
"I think every eligible voter will have a reason to get out there next year, for the governor's race and the Senate races, all the way through the ballot," Larson said. "And that's really good for democracy."
Peter Passi and John Myers of the News Tribune staff contributed to this report.