Sworn in as lieutenant governor, Fischbach’s resignation leaves Minn. Senate tied
ST. PAUL -- Michelle Fischbach became the "full lieutenant governor," in her words, and resigned from the Minnesota Senate, leaving an equal number of Republicans and Democrats.
The Paynesville Republican took the oath of office Friday, May 25, which apparently ends a legal challenge to her holding offices in the legislative and executive branches at the same time. But by leaving the Senate with a 33-33 tie, it opens the possibility that Democrats could regain control under certain circumstances.
Fischbach left open the possibility that she could become a governor candidate's running mate. She would not directly answer a reporter's question on the topic: "There are lots of things that go on out there."
She also did not say if she would run for another office this year.
Fischbach, who has been lieutenant governor since January, took the oath on Friday from Supreme Court Justice G. Barry Anderson in front of her parents, son, daughter-in-law and Gov. Mark Dayton. During the brief ceremony in the governor's reception room, her father, Tom St. Martin, held a Bible with her hand on it.
She said she considered herself acting lieutenant governor before, but now is full-fledged in the office.
The Paynesville Republican said she is ending her 22-year Senate career to move to the executive branch and that a lawsuit claiming she could not be senator and lieutenant governor at the same time was being dropped.
"I feel it is time I can end my legislative career and I will not be seeking my Senate seat," Fischbach said.
She earlier had said she would not resign from the Senate, but on Friday said "the end of session" changed her mind. The 2018 legislative session ended late Sunday and Dayton repeatedly has said he will not call lawmakers back for a special session, which means there will be no votes on legislation until next year.
Dayton set a special election to replace her for Nov. 6, general election day in Minnesota. No other state Senate seats will be on the ballot.
Had Fischbach resigned earlier this year, Democrats and Republicans would have been tied at 33 in the Senate. Several votes this year were 34-33 along party lines; issues fail on a tie vote.
With her resignation Democrats will target the election to replace her. While her district leans Republican, Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, has said he has a candidate who can win.
Also on politicians' minds is the fact that two GOP senators are running for Congress, and if either wins, it could give Democrats a chance take charge of the chamber.
Fischbach and Dayton did not outline what her lieutenant governor duties will be. While the state Constitution and law give her a few specific tasks, her main job is to take over if the governor no longer can perform his duties.
Dayton is Democrat and Fischbach Republican, so they disagree on many policies. Often, a governor sends a lieutenant governor around the state promoting administration decisions or attacking the other party.
"When we disagree, we disagree," Dayton said.
Dayton and Fishbach had nothing but good things to say about each other Friday.
"We have had a good relationship over the last couple of months," Dayton said.
When U.S. Sen. Al Franken resigned early this year, Dayton appointed then-Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to replace him. Under the state Constitution, Fischbach immediately became lieutenant governor because she was Senate president.
However, the Constitution also required her to take an oath of office, which she had not done until Friday. She did not accept a salary for that office.
Fischbach, 52, took her Senate seat in 1996, serving parts of Benton and Stearns counties.
The Woodbury, Minn., native earlier served on the Paynesville City Council. She has a law degree.
Fischbach first served as Senate president in the 2011 and 2012 sessions when Republicans controlled the body for the first time in decades. Democrats gained control in 2013 and she again became president when Republicans took the majority last year.