If the first weeks of his second and final term are any indication, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will be making headlines. In cruising to an easy win in November over Republican Jeff Johnson, Dayton said he would not run again, thus freeing himself of the political restraints that somewhat moderated his tone and rhetoric in his first term. He’s closed the door to a third term. He’s free to speak out without regard to political fallout. He’s already at it.
The governor, who is not known for charisma or oratory, nevertheless has a knack for a well-turned phrase and a stick-it-in-the ribs jab. He shot a barb or two at former Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., suggesting Coleman should “stay in Washington and hang out with his rich friends.”
Coleman’s conservative group had run ads against the governor in the recent campaign. Coleman reacted, but ineffectively because, since losing his Senate seat to Al Franken more than six years ago, Coleman has not been a factor in Minnesota politics, policy or anything else of note.
Recently the governor took on the insular NCAA, suggesting start times for Gophers games should not be driven by television schedules but rather what is best for fans. He’s right, but given the NCAA’s priorities, his criticism won’t go anywhere. Still, it was another indication that Dayton will let fly without regard to the fallout.
In that media session, the governor went after Republicans who want to gut MNsure, the state health insurance exchange. Be constructive, he advised. Expect Dayton to give fits to the Republican House majority in the Legislature. Indeed, the majority’s decision to cut out urban legislators from committee leadership posts flies in the face of the “one Minnesota” theme in Dayton’s Monday inaugural address.
The governor has always been characterized as “unpredictable” in his four decades in and out of elected office. But being unpredictable and unbridled by re-election considerations could make the next four years the most interesting in Dayton’s political life. He said he realizes he is free to be more candid, more outspoken. Minnesotans, who gave him a landslide re-election victory, could be in for quite a ride.
FORUM NEWS SERVICE