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Political Notebook

It is a conservative candidate's dream: the chance to accuse a judge of taking over powers that should be left to legislators and governors.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a probable 2012 Republican presidential candidate, enjoyed that opportunity when Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled that he violated the state constitution last summer in making budget cuts.

When he announced that he will appeal the ruling, Pawlenty warned that there now is a danger that the state budget "will be run out of the courthouse."

Pawlenty called Gearin's decision misguided, but stopped short of calling her a liberal, activist judge, even though one reporter's question left the door wide open to that.

Many conservatives regularly complain that judges are making policy decisions best left up to the other two branches of government.

Davis happy

Most Minnesotans likely never heard of Leslie Davis, although the frequent candidate is well known to politicos.

Few think he has a chance of winning the 2010 Republican governor nomination, but a news release headline certainly attracted attention: "Davis Reveals That He Is Happy And Optimistic."

The headline at first glance appeared to be reaction to former Sen. Mark Dayton's comments about his depression and alcoholism. But, no, it apparently has nothing to do with Dayton's problems.

Davis said that he is "upbeat and optimistic" despite being excluded from several forums and being ignored by the media.

Many think Davis fits better into the Democratic-Farmer-Labor and Green parties due to his environmental background, but he makes a case that he is a pro-business Republican.

The Davis campaign letterhead declares: "Republic(m)an for governor."

Gearin again

Judge Kathleen Gearin's ruling that Gov. Tim Pawlenty violated the state constitution when he unilaterally cut the budget was not her first time in the spotlight last year.

She also was one of four judges who sat on a recount panel in the U.S. Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman. Pictures of her looking over ballots were among photographers' favorites.

She also was a favorite of reporters looking for good quote, with some funny quips.

Gearin is the chief Ramsey County District court judge.

More money

Some jobless Minnesotans will receive unemployment checks a bit longer.

The state Department of Employment and Economic Development announced that federal changes mean 47 additional weeks of unemployment benefits will continue to be available through February. Until that change, those additional checks were to go away at the end of 2009.

Normally, unemployment benefits last 26 weeks. But federal economic stimulus legislation extended that to up to 47 weeks.