Dayton picks chief of staff Tina Smith as running mate

Tina Smith addressed a crowd at a rally in downtown St. Paul where Gov. Dayton announced her as his 2014 running mate.Tom Scheck/MPR News

Gov. Mark Dayton looked no further than his own office to find his new running mate. He named his chief of staff Tina Smith to join his re-election ticket.

The governor's campaign said Smith brings decades of experience in both the private and public sectors to the ticket, and that  Smith is a proven leader who has demonstrated time and again her unique ability to solve problems, develop consensus and deliver results.

“Tina is the best administrator with whom I have ever worked. She has the exceptional ability to get people working together to make things happen,” said Dayton. “She will soon be traveling across the state, listening to, and learning from, the people of Minnesota.”

Before working for Dayton Smith was chief of staff for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

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Before that she  founded a marketing and communications firm that served foundations and businesses in Minnesota and across the country. She worked as a marketing professional at General Mills, she served as Vice President for External Affairs for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota and she has also advised candidates for public office in dozens of local, state, and national campaigns.

“The campaign for an even better Minnesota starts today, and the choice voters make will be one of the most crucial in this decade. There is so much at stake,” said Smith. “In this campaign we will fight for economic fairness – and Minnesota’s middle class – so we can really build a better Minnesota, for every Minnesotan.”

The opening on the ticket came when Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon announced last month that she would not seek re-election.

Dayton's Republican opponents were quick to criticize the choice, noting that both Dayton and Smith come from Minneapolis.

"While the policies of Mark Dayton's first term have already put Greater Minnesota on the back burner, his selection of another Minneapolis resident for the 2014 LG position only confirms that this disregard for Minnesotans outside of the urban core will continue," said former state Rep. Marty Seifert.  "Smith, like Dayton, is strongly tied to the Minneapolis class of DFL, liberal elite who don't come close to understanding the needs of most in our state."

Former Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers, who is also a candidate for governor, noted the geographic similarity and sought to blame Smith for the problems with the rollout of the state's online health insurance exchange known as MNSure.

"Dayton’s policies, supported by Smith, have brought higher taxes, more wasteful government spending, and forced hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans to scramble to keep their health insurance policies, Zellers said.

"Across the state, I have heard from Minnesotans concerned about canceled health insurance policies, higher deductibles and rising premiums. I have heard from farmers who feel punished by the tax on farm equipment. And I talk to Minnesotans families that cannot afford four more years of tax increases, more wasteful spending, and higher health insurance premiums. Elevating Smith to run for Lt. Governor is just one more reason Minnesota needs a new governor in 2014," Zellers said.

The governor's office said that beginning Feb. 11, Jaime Tincher will take over as the governor's chief of staff.  Tincher is currently the governor's deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs.