Dayton collapses, then walks with aid after speech
ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton collapsed during his State of the State speech Monday night, Jan. 23, but after a few minutes walked away with help.
An hour later, he was playing a puzzle with his grandson at his official state residence.
"He quickly recovered, walked out of the Capitol, and returned home," his chief of staff, Jaime Tincher, said an hour and a half after the incident. "EMTs joined the governor there, and performed a routine check. He is now spending time with his son and grandson."
On Monday night, Tincher said that Dayon will "will present his 2017 budget tomorrow at 11:15am, as planned."
A year ago, Dayton fainted at a political event. He said doctors at the time ordered him to drink more water, blaming the 2016 collapse on dehydration.
After his Monday night collapse, he got up, waved and walked with assistance to a back room. He reportedly walked out of the Capitol and left in his official vehicle.
About 45 minutes into his speech, Dayton was discussing his health care priorities for Minnesotans like Sheri and Vince Sexton, dairy farmers from Millville. Their monthly insurance costs jumped from $1,480 to $2,200 in the past year.
After a pause to take a drink of water, his hand shaky, he continued: "Despite that awful cost. ..."
His speech was distorted moments before he fell.
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, sitting next to him, immediately reached over to catch him, quickly followed by several others nearby.
While he hit his head, those nearby reached him quickly enough that he did not hit the floor hard.
Legislators gasped when he collapsed, then silence fell over the House chamber for several seconds.
After he fell, the House and Senate immediately adjourned their joint assembly.
During the speech, he seemed hesitant from time to time. Some in the chamber also said he appeared pale.
About half an hour after Dayton's collapse, his son Eric Dayton said on Twitter that his father was doing better.
"I'm with my dad now and he's doing great," Eric Dayton said. "Thank you all for your kind well-wishes and words of concern."
Not long after that tweet, Eric Dayton added a second about the governor and the grandson he mentioned early in his State of the State address: "Dad and Hugo are now doing a very advanced puzzle together, so that has to be a good sign!"
When he walked into the chamber to start his speech just after 7 p.m., he stumbled as he approached the podium. Before starting his speech, he joked that he should have done "a walk through" before the speech.
Dayton began his speech saying how proud he is to be a Minnesotan.
"I am very proud of our state," he said. "I was born in Minneapolis 70 years ago this Thursday. I grew up here and have lived here for most of my life."
The governor has a history of health issues, including hip and back problems.
He fainted at a campaign event last year, which led to a hospital stay. Afterward, he said doctors ordered him to drink more water and fewer carbonated beverages.
Sen. Dan Schoen, a police officer and paramedic, said his instinct was to help protect the governor from media and other "lookie loos" as he was being treated.
There is obvious interest because he's the governor, but he's a human being too, Schoen said.
Schoen, D-St. Paul Park, said Dayton's state of the state speech was "clicking along," but there were 200 lawmakers plus others in the House chamber, "and it gets warm."
It may have been nothing more than a response to those conditions, he said.
Dayton has had a series of health issues, leaving some to wonder about his physical well-being.
"I've heard that same thing for six years," Schoen said. "The fact is he's a tough old hockey player."
Reaction was swift in support of the governor.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, was sitting directly behind Dayton, but said he saw little of what happened.
"I'm sure he'll be fine," Daudt said after Dayton left.
"The governor is in our thoughts and prayers," Daudt said. "I hope for a quick recovery."
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said "we are all one Minnesotan," adding that the Democratic governor is in his prayers.
"I want to ask for your prayers for his speedy recovery," Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, wrote to constituents in an email. "He is a man who loves the state of Minnesota and works hard for all of us.
"I hope more positive news will follow in the morning. We will stay focused on the business of the state and hope to see him back to work soon."
Mark Dayton, who turns 70 Thursday, is Minnesota's oldest governor and announced before winning re-election in 2014 that this would be his final term in elective office.
He has been in public service about 40 years, including working for former Vice President Walter Mondale, serving as state auditor and U.S. senator. He also worked in Gov. Rudy Perpich's administration.
Dayton started his career as a New York City school teacher, after being a star high school hockey goaltender who also played at Yale.
The Democrat was not happy in the Senate, but often said that his current position is his dream job.