ST. PAUL, Minn. -- After years of working behind the scenes Tina Smith will now share the political stage with Governor Mark Dayton.
The incumbent Democrat Tuesday named Smith, his chief of staff, as his running mate in his 2014 reelection bid.
"I considered some other very qualified candidates, but Tina I felt was the best," Gov. Dayton told reporters after the formal announcement at Minnesota's AFL-CIO headquarters near the State Capitol.
Dayton praised Smith for her efforts putting together the Vikings stadium deal in 2012, as well as handling hard fought negotiations on Destination Medical Center project centered on the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
"And we've worked together for the last three years, we work well together. She can put up with me, which is a rarity in state government!"
Smith lives in Minneapolis, so she won't be able to add the geographic balance that current Lieutenant Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon of Duluth did when she shared the ticket with Dayton in 2010. Prettner Solon decided not to seek reelection.
Republicans were quick to accuse the governor or ignoring Greater Minnesota with his choice of Smith.
"We think there are nearly five million Minnesotans who live outside of Minneapolis," Ben Golnik of the Minnesota Jobs Coalition, a conservative group told KARE.
"Surely Governor Dayton could've looked outside of his own administration, maybe brought in a fresh set of eyes to look at some of the problems this administration has, including MNsure."
But Smith said Dayton, who sought statewide office the first time in 1982 and served as State Auditor and US Senator earlier in his political career, is no stranger to places outside the Twin Cities metro.
"I can't think of another leader in Minnesota who has more experience representing the entire state than Mark Dayton has," Smith told KARE.
"It's really been -- his entire public service -- has been about representing the entire state."
Many political observers predict the geography issue will fade quickly by November when voters decide whether to give Dayton another four years in office.
"I suspect when it comes to the election we're going to have all the focus on Governor Dayton and his Republican competitor," Larry Jacobs of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs told KARE.
"They'll be talking about issues about taxes, jobs and maybe MNsure. The focus will be on the top of the ticket."
Jacobs said Dayton probably scored some points with the business community by selecting Smith as a running mate.
"She's one of the very few DFLers the business community feels very comfortable dealing with," he said.
"They've known her for years. They've worked with her on many projects and they trust her."
Before joining Dayton's office in 2011 Smith worked for Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak, Planned Parenthood, the Met Council and General Mills. She founded the Marketing Insights company and was a partner in MacWilliams Cosgrove Smith Robinson, a strategic political communications firm.
Her political experience includes several statewide campaigns, including Walter Mondale's last-minute 2002 senate campaign after the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone.
Smith, a New Mexico native, holds an undergraduate degree in political science from Stanford and a masters in business administration from Dartmouth.