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Minnesota Government Update


June 2, 2009


Pawlenty Announces He Will Not Seek Third Term
Governor Tim Pawlenty announced today at a mid-day press conference that he will not run for a third term. When asked whether he would run for President in 2012, Governor Pawlenty said he had no plans beyond finishing out his current term. The Minnesota Governor has approximately 19 months left in office, and stated that “Minnesota will get my very best until the very end” and that he “doesn’t have any future plans beyond serving my term.”
 
As one of Sen. John McCain's earliest and most visible supporters during the Republican's 2008 presidential campaign, Pawlenty raised his national profile within the party. He was on Presidential hopeful John McCain's short list for his vice-presidential running mate, eventually being passed over in favor of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. For months, Pawlenty has been routinely mentioned as a likely presidential candidate in 2012, but has consistently been reluctant to announce whether he will run for national office.
 
In the just-concluded legislative session, Pawlenty also took a hard line that played well with Republicans far beyond Minnesota, vetoing all DFLers' proposed tax increases and unilaterally cutting parts of the State's budget to resolve the State’s $4.6 billion deficit. Some political analysts have said that a Pawlenty run for a third term could have been risky. Pawlenty, however, cited recent polls showing him with a popularity rating in excess of 50%.
 
Governor Tim Pawlenty is a lawyer and native of South St. Paul. He began his political career serving on the Eagan City Council before his election to the State House of Representatives where he went on to serve as the House Majority Leader. Pawlenty first ran for governor in 2002 and defeated a veteran Democratic legislator and former DFL congressman running as a third party candidate. He narrowly won re-election in 2006 in another three-way race. 
 
This legislative session, Governor Pawlenty used his executive authority of line-item vetoes and said he will use his power of unallottment to balance the State’s budget. In order to do so, he will have to cut $2.7 billion from state programs. Overall, Pawlenty has held true to his ideals—his promise not to raise taxes and to slow the growth of government spending. Pawlenty strayed from his tax stance just once, when in 2005 he proposed and helped pass a 75-cent-a-pack "health impact fee" on cigarettes. Pawlenty has followed traditionally conservative stances on most social issues, but has proved to be progressive on issues such as the importation of prescription drugs from Canada and his support of pro-environmental energy initiatives.
 
As for potential candidates for Governor in 2012, Republicans being mentioned include former U.S. Representative Jim Ramstad, former State Auditor Pat Anderson, former House Speaker Steve Sviggum, state Representatives Paul Kohls and Laura Brod and state Senator Geoff Michel. Business leaders mentioned include Brian Sullivan, David Olson, President of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, and Charlie Weaver, President of the Minnesota Business Partnership.
 
The list of DFL candidates for Governor continues to grow. Seven candidates have already filed with the Secretary of State: Representative Paul Thissen of Minneapolis, Senator John Marty of Roseville, Senator Tom Bakk of Cook, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, former state Senator Steve Kelley of Hopkins, former House Majority Leader Matt Entenza, and former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton. Potential DFL candidates include House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.
 
Minnesota Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Senate Recount 
The Minnesota Supreme Court is behind closed doors today deliberating a decision that could determine the political future of DFLer Al Franken and Republican Norm Coleman. Al Franken leads Norm Coleman by 312 votes in the United States Senate recount. Coleman is asking the Court to reverse the trial panel's decision and order it to reconsider 4,400 absentee ballots from among those that were rejected by local election officials. The Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides on Monday. 
 
Coleman attorney Joe Friedberg told the justices that thousands more rejected absentee ballots should be tallied under looser standards that were used by many local officials on Election Day. He said local practices led to counting ballots in Democratic areas that were similar to those rejected in Republican areas applying a stricter standard. However, this argument was scrutinized by several justices who suggested that the Coleman campaign failed to back-up their claims with proof that these practices were widespread. Associate Justice Christopher Dietzen said to the Coleman team, “You're offering little more than ... Coleman's theory of the case but no concrete evidence to back it up.”
 
Franken lawyer Marc Elias also came in for some tough questions. Associate Justice Lorie Gildea asked how he could be confident about the outcome given that some of the ballots counted on Election Day apparently didn't meet the requirements of Minnesota law. She said, “If we're supposed to decide who got the most legally cast votes and there is evidence that suggests that illegally cast ballots were accepted…how can we tell who got the most legally cast votes?” Elias responded that Coleman failed to prove how many ballots were illegally cast or their relevance.
 
Five justices heard the arguments in the Minnesota Judicial Center. Two Court members had excused themselves from the case because they were on the State Canvassing Board that oversaw a recount of the election. Coleman maintains that the three-judge panel that conducted an election trial erred when it unanimously ruled in April that Franken won by 312 votes. Franken did not attend Monday's arguments, but Coleman did. He declined to say whether he would appeal a loss to the U.S. Supreme Court. Franken has asked the state Supreme Court to affirm the panel's ruling and order Governor Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to issue an election certificate to Franken.

For up-to-date information about the Minnesota Legislature, tune into Almanac: At the Capitol. This lively and informative program is aired Wednesdays during the legislative session on Twin Cities Public Television at 7:00 PM on Channel 17 and at 10:00 PM on Channel 2.
 
Almanac: At the Capitol is seen on all public television stations throughout Minnesota and in Fargo. Winthrop & Weinstine is the exclusive law-firm partner and a sponsor of the program.
 
For more information and to see previous broadcasts, check out the Almanac: At the Capitol Web site at http://tpt.org/aatc/.

 
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