Dayton taps top aide Tina Smith to be running mate

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Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday morning announced he had chosen his chief of staff Tina Flint Smith as his running mate headed into a campaign for a second term.

Dayton hailed Smith as gifted at bringing people together from different backgrounds around the state to work toward a common goal. He called her a sharp, shrewd public manager.

Smith praised Dayton for always carefully considering all facts, seeing diverse perspectives and speaking the truth. She also lauded Dayton for taking on big challenges. "This is a guy who rushes into trouble, just in case he can help," she said.

Smith is currently leading an effort designed to make government more efficient, which is likely to be a high-profile issue in the legislative session beginning later this month, the Star Tribune reports.

In a profile last year that called Smith a bridge builder with a hammer, the Star Tribune noted that the former General Mills marketer moves easily among both business leaders and the DFL's elite. The New Mexico native who now lives in Minneapolis was at Dayton's side as he sought solutions to a number of complex state problems, including negotiations over the new Vikings stadium and a state government shutdown.

“It’s not my job to make him be less Mark Dayton,” Smith told the newspaper. “It’s my job help him to be as successful as he can possibly be. He needs to be who he is. That’s why people respect him so much.”

Smith previously had served as chief of staff to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. After a job at General Mills, she founded a marketing and communications firm that served foundations and businesses in Minnesota and across the country. She is a veteran of dozens of local, state and national political campaigns, Dayton noted when he made her chief of staff in 2010.

Republicans took quick aim at Dayton for choosing a longtime political insider from the Twin Cities. The choice of Smith shows Dayton's "disregard for Minnesotans outside of the urban core," Republican gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert said.

Forum Communications notes that in Minnesota, the governor candidate typically picks a running mate, and that choice is rubber-stamped by delegates at a state convention in the spring.

Jaime Tincher, currently Dayton's deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs, will serve as Dayton's new chief of staff, KARE 11 reports.

Dayton's search for a new running mate began when Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon announced earlier this month that she would not join the governor for another term.

Last week, state Sen. Katie Sieben (D-Cottage Grove), who was widely considered as a possibility for the job, said she wanted to remain in her current term until 2016, KARE said.

Dayton told TPT's "Almanac" last week that he was looking for a talented, pro-active partner for his running mate, and "gender balance" was a consideration.

If Dayton is re-elected, the new lieutenant governor would not start serving in an official capacity until 2015.

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