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Tina Smith named to replace Al Franken in U.S. Senate

Minnesota's governor has appointed Democratic Lt.-Gov. Tina Smith as U.S. senator to replace Al Franken, who announced his resignation after being accused of sexual harassment.

Minnesota's lieutenant-governor will face Republican in special Senate election in 2018

Democratic Lt.-Gov. Tina Smith speaks in St. Paul, Minn. She has been selected to replace Al Franken in the U.S. Senate and will face a special election in 2018. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)

Minnesota's governor has appointed Democratic Lt.-Gov. Tina Smith as U.S. senator to replace Al Franken, who announced his resignation after being accused of sexual harassment.

Gov. Mark Dayton announced the appointment on Wednesday morning, with the Minneapolis Star Tribune earlier reporting Smith would be the choice.

Smith, 59, told reporters she will run in next year's election to complete Franken's term through 2020, stressing that she's ready for the challenge and national spotlight that awaits.

"I can tell you I shouldn't be underestimated and if I weren't confident, I wouldn't be doing this," she said.

It's not immediately clear when she will arrive in Washington to begin her duties.

A written statement from Franken said Smith is an excellent choice and a "dedicated public servant" who can work across party lines. He said he will work with her on a fast transition.

Smith became lieutenant governor in January 2015. The Star Tribune said she previously worked as Dayton's chief of staff and held positions at General Mills and Planned Parenthood.

Last week, Franken, 66, also a Democrat, announced his resignation from the seat he has held since 2009. The former Saturday Night Live writer and performer has denied some of the allegations against him and questioned others.

Reuters has not independently verified the accusations against Franken.

Minnesota will soon have two women senators, as Smith will join fellow Democrat Amy Klobuchar, 57, who became the state's first female senator after winning election a year ago.

The Republican Party's slim majority in the Senate will not be affected by the move to replace Franken.

Democrats will gain a seat to cut Republican's majority in the 100-member Senate to 51 after Tuesday night's victory by Doug Jones over Republican candidate Roy Moore in a special election in Alabama.

With files from Associated Press