Don Davis column: Pawlenty will pass on DFL
It was Nov. 6, hours after election returns were in, and speculation already was well under way. Republican Tim Pawlenty had taken the Minnesota governorship. Republicans strengthened their hold on the state House. And in the Senate, they were as...
It was Nov. 6, hours after election returns were in, and speculation already was well under way.
Republican Tim Pawlenty had taken the Minnesota governorship. Republicans strengthened their hold on the state House. And in the Senate, they were as close as ever to overtaking majority Democrats.
What if Pawlenty wooed a few Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party senators for Cabinet posts? If he would only appoint two DFLers from GOP-friendly districts, Republicans might win the ensuing special elections. Then, the two big parties would be tied 33-33 and former Republican Sen. Sheila Kiscaden, now a Rochester Independence Party member, could return to the fold and give the GOP control of the Senate.
Perhaps Pawlenty would consider offering Sen. Dallas Sams of Staples leadership of the Health or Agriculture department. Or maybe the Pollution Control Agency.
Sen. Steve Murphy of Red Wing, a proud ex-Marine, could be handed the Veterans Affairs Department.
Sen. Dean Johnson of Willmar, a former Republican, might be interested in the Transportation Department after being chairman of transportation committees.
Sen. Jim Vickerman of Tracy has deep roots in agriculture, but also heads the State and Local Government Operations Committee, which could qualify him for many jobs, including commissioner of the Administration Department.
All are veteran senators and would be good appointments. All are conservative enough to be accepted by Republicans. And all, at times, have trouble accepting DFL stands.
But if Pawlenty makes a move toward any DFL senator, the fighting will be intense.
DFLers, led by Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger of St. Peter, would do everything possible to keep each Democratic senator in the Senate. Since the ones being rumored to be targets already have committee chairmanships, maybe they would be promised support for their pet projects.
Cabinet jobs with authority -- that now pay $108,400 annually -- would be tempting. Taking a Cabinet post would give a senator a chance to accomplish things he can't when he has just one vote out of 67.
Pawlenty was asked about the tactic of stealing DFL senators the other day. At first, he laughed. Then he turned serious.
"That can't be our driving force," he said, apparently leaving the door open to senator thefts.
Since his transition began, Pawlenty has said he would consider Democrats, and anyone else, for key administration posts. However, any appointees must fit his conservative philosophy.
His first two appointments, both Republican legislators, did just that. Rep. Dan McElroy of Burnsville is highly respected and will be a good fit for the all-important Finance Department in these times of budget deficits. McElroy carries Pawlenty's conservatism well.
Rep. Kevin Goodno of Moorhead, who did not seek re-election, was the logical pick to run the Human Services Department. He is hated by a few social services groups, disliked by some, liked by many and loved by others.
Goodno has been tough to love, politically, by anyone but conservatives in recent months. He was assigned the task of trimming the state budget, especially programs falling under the jurisdiction of his House Health and Human Services Finance Committee.
House Republican leaders this spring picked Goodno to lead House negotiations to balance the budget, in a large part because funds his committee controls would take the biggest hits.
Goodno was widely praised for his work on the negotiations.
It is people like Goodno and McElroy that Pawlenty needs for the most prominent of his 20-plus commissioners. In a fiscally trying time like this, Pawlenty must have confidence in his top aides.
That means chances of a Democrat landing in one of the top administration positions are slim. Look for a mostly Republican Pawlenty administration.
Davis is The Forum's Capitol correspondent in St. Paul. He can be reached at email@example.com