ST. PAUL — U.S. Sen. Tina Smith is projected to beat Republican challenger Karin Housley following Minnesota’s special U.S. Senate election on Tuesday night, Nov 6.

With 69 percent of state precincts reporting at press time, Smith had captured about 53 percent of the vote, while Housley had about 42 percent.

The Associated Press called the race for Smith at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

“Tonight your hopes were heard. Tonight this victory is a victory for politics that prioritizes people,” Smith said in a tweet. “I share this victory with women everywhere who took the leap — who have been called to serve and fiercely advocate for all of us.”

Smith, a DFLer, has held the seat since January, when she was appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Al Franken in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations.

Smith, 60, was named Dayton’s chief of staff in 2011 and was elected in 2014 as the state’s lieutenant governor. The Senate race marks her first solo candidacy for public office.

Housley, 54, has a background in media, investing and real estate. She is in her second term in the Minnesota Senate, having first been elected to a district representing the lower St. Croix River Valley in 2012.

"Tonight, I called Sen. Tina Smith to congratulate her on her victory,” Housley said in a statement. “I hoped for better circumstances, but sometimes God’s plans are different than our own. Sen. Smith and I disagree on almost everything, but now is a time to come together and move forward for the good of the state we love.”

Smith, a former Planned Parenthood executive, campaigned on health care as well as rural economic issues including agriculture and broadband access. Housley, touting her background in small business, stressed a commitment to business-friendly practices, affordable health care and elder care, while enthusiastically supporting President Donald Trump’s economic policies.

A Republican has not won a Senate seat in Minnesota since former Sen. Norm Coleman in 2002.

Smith will fill out the remaining two years of Franken’s term at an annual salary of $174,000. Smith said she will seek a full, six-year term in 2020.

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