Daily Digest: Buckle up! Action-packed 2018 is here

Welcome to a blockbuster Minnesota election year. Voters will elect a new governor, two U.S. senators and several other constitutional officers and determine Minnesota House control as well as decide up to five competitive congressional races. Quite simply, political overload awaits. I’m sitting in for the week for regular Daily Digest compiler Mike Mulcahy, so let’s get to it:

1. Minnesota’s new twins are rookie mayors in the state’s two largest cities. It’s the first time since 2002 that Minneapolis and St. Paul have new mayors at the same time. Both Jacob Frey in Minneapolis and Melvin Carter III in St. Paul have city hall experience as members of the respective councils, but that doesn’t mean they won’t face a learning curve. Frey is sworn in privately today ahead of a bigger ceremony next Monday. Carter, a history-making mayor, makes his public debut at noon. Here’s what’s on his plate. (Pioneer Press)

2. As Sen. Al Franken exits, his replacement faces a busy year. Tina Smith, the current lieutenant governor, takes her place in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, leaving her about 10 months to get comfortable in the job and convince Minnesota voters she deserves it for two more years. Smith has kept a low profile since Gov. Mark Dayton tapped his trusted adviser a few weeks ago to succeed Franken upon his resignation. Smith has never run for office on her own. She knows she faces a challenge. “I have a job to do to hit the ground running and be the most effective senator I can be — and also to go to Minnesotans and ask for their support as I run for Senate in 2018,” Smith told the Star Tribune. (Star Tribune)

3. Many eyes are on state Sen. Michelle Fischbach, who is in line to become lieutenant governor. Political allies and opponents alike describe her as “cordial and collegial.” But with the governor and lieutenant governor posts in different party hands for the first time in a half-century, it’s unclear what influence Fischbach will have in the statewide role. Oh, and there’s that chance she could be forced out of the job she actually wants — state senator — and choose to give up the new post if a court rules against her. (Star Tribune)

4.  Work in 2018 will be key for 2020, too. It seems like a basic concept: count every person living in America once and only once. If only it were that easy. The next census is two years away. But work happening now by Minnesota government officials, civic groups, businesses, local government employees and others stands to have a big bearing on how the population count goes in Minnesota. Preparations are ramping up because the state has a lot riding on the federal headcount’s accuracy. (MPR News)

5. Some Minnesota Republicans hoped she’d run for governor. Former Fox News Channel anchor Gretchen Carlson, an Anoka native, said thanks but no thanks to seeking the top job in her home state. She’s now got a high-profile assignment repairing the image of the Miss America organization as its new chairwoman following problems that sunk the pageant’s leader. Carlson once wore the crown herself after a 1989 win, so she knows her way around the entity. (NBC News)