It’s just a coincidence, but two new senators have recently
been appointed to serve as U.S. senators following
incumbent resignations in their home states --- and their
names are both Smith. More coincidence --- each are
women and each of these choices have upset some of
their own party voters.
Senator Tina Smith of Minnesota is a Democrat (called the
Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party or DFL there), and Senator
Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi is a Republican. Each
were personal favorites of the governors who appointed
them, and that appears to be at the root of their popularity
Tina Smith was Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s
lt. governor, and before that, his chief of staff. She has not
previously run for office on her own. There were several
better-known DFLers who could have been chosen. Tina
Smith is closely identified with Planned Parenthood and
other liberal issues that are not popular in outstate
Cindy Hyde-Smith was a former Democrat who became
commissioner of agriculture under GOP Governor Phil
Bryant, and became a Republican. As in Minnesota, there
were several better-known conservatives who could have
been chosen. President Trump reportedly opposed the
appointment, and has so far refused to endorse her.
In Senator Tina Smith’s case, her situation is complicated
by the fact that she has replaced Sneator Al Franken who
was widely believed to have been forced to resign by
leaders of his own party following allegations that were
made against him. Democratic sources privately worry
that the Tina Smith appointment makes her an interloper
among some Franken Democrats. Senator Smith will
likely avoid a primary, but will face an energetic GOP
woman state senator. Karin Housely, in November.
This special election will accompany the regular election
of Senator Amy Klobuchar, so there will be two senate
races on the November Minnesota ballot. Senator
Klobuchar is a very heavy favorite to win re-election, but
ticket-splitting Minnesotans could make the special
election very competitive, especially if there is a “red
wave” in this state in 2018.
Mississippi is a strong GOP state. But Senator Hyde-Smith
faces a likely strong primary challenge, and as happened
in a recent neighboring Alabama special senate election,
the result could make the usually weak Democratic Party
candidate a serious contender in November.
Both these unexpected races, for all their coincidences, are
emblematic of the complexity and unpredictabilty of this
national mid-term election cycle. The mood of the voters
is very volatile just now.
When the roll call of votes is made in January, 2019, it will
be interesting to see not only how many senators named
Smith are listed, but also how many incumbents in both
parties will still be there.
Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.