Mark Dayton’s four-year run

Mark Dayton started planning his run for governor before he left the U.S. Senate.

On the one hand, this is kinda shocking. On the other hand, it’s no big scoop. On the last day of his Senate term, in January of 2007, Sen. Dayton told Kevin Diaz of the Strib that he was thinking of running for guv. The headline on Diaz’ page one Strib sendoff to Sen. Dayton says “The departing Democrat plans to stay in politics and may run for governor in 2010.”

At the moment, I don’t know how much Dayton did during 2007 to lay the groundwork for his next campaign, but by mid-2008 he was telling anyone who asked that he planned to run.I don’t know Dayton well at all, but I do recall speaking to him during that time frame, and being shocked, both that he was planning to run and that he was so open about it. I also felt that he would have no chance, so soon after the conclusion of his one Senate term, even to receive serious consideration for his party’s nomination, especially since he left office stating plainly that he would not be the Dems’ best hope to retain that Senate seat in 2006.

I bring up this ancient history because I find it surprising, and as a reminder to myself that I don’t see the future clearly at all, especially where elective politics is concerned.

Dayton announced his gubernatorial run officially (he was not the first, but among the first) in January of 2009, which at the moment seems half an eon ago. And now he is the nominee of his party and, according to the most recent polls matching him against Tom Emmer and  Tom Horner, starts the final round as the frontrunner. The KSTP/SurveyUSA poll had it Dayton 46; Emmer 32; Horner 9.

Those numbers will change, soon and many times before November when we’ll find out the numbers that matter. But some things don’t change.

In that four-year-old send-off piece, my friend and former colleague Diaz sought reaction from then Repub Chair Ron Carey to Dayton’s thoughts of a gubernatorial future. Here’s Carey’s quote from that story:

“Mark Dayton has received national recognition by Time magazine as one of ‘America’s Worst Senators’ and has himself acknowledged that he deserved an ‘F’ for his ineffectiveness in the U.S. Senate,” said Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Ron Carey. “With a track record like that, I find it beyond belief that Mark Dayton would think he has what it takes to be our governor.”


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Comments (25)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/12/2010 - 10:54 am.

    They sure are fixated on Time magazine. I am glad someone still reads it.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/12/2010 - 11:53 am.

    Isn’t that the same Time magazine that keeps telling us we have a climate change crises?

  3. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 08/12/2010 - 11:55 am.

    Makes you wonder why an actual politician would listen to pundits.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 08/12/2010 - 11:57 am.

    Because I can, I want to say that – the necessity for “unity” aside, and as a newbie to the state who’s NOT steeped in all the inside information, perceptions and prejudices that inevitably make up a big part of a primary campaign – I thought Margaret Kelliher by far the better potential Governor. Obviously not the best, or perhaps it should be wealthiest, campaigner, but she continues to strike me as someone smart, obviously well-versed in the legislative process, and committed to doing what needs to be done to make state government effective and efficient. It would also have been really cool to have a woman prove her capabilities in the Governor’s office. Given the lunatic alternative to the right, Dayton is going to get my vote in November, but he wasn’t my first choice.

    WIth malevolent attack ads already airing, harking back to earlier Republican criticism of Dayton seems relevant, but Ron Carey’s statement that “…I find it beyond belief that Mark Dayton would think he has what it takes to be our governor” is predictably partisan, and rings false to me.

    Mr. Carey may turn out to be correct, of course, but – based on my relatively brief period of residency in Minnesota – I wonder just what Carey and other critics think is necessary to BE governor of Minnesota. The “current occupant,” to use Garrison Keillor’s phrase, has been out of the state much of the time I’ve lived here, busily campaigning for national office in Iowa and other places. Actual presence in Minnesota has seemed somewhat optional, at least with Mr. Pawlenty holding the office.

    An alternative view of “having what it takes” to be Governor is that, given the deficit numbers looming on the horizon, a new Governor may not need to do much more than memorize the phrase “We can’t afford it,” to use over and over again, as he cuts yet another state program’s funding, or eliminates it altogether. This seems a likely possibility to me no matter who ends up behind the Governor’s desk.

    Lots of people would like to be Governor when the economy is expanding, new enterprises springing up, buildings and infrastructure busily under construction, and the people as a whole happy and prosperous. It’s not nearly as much fun to preside over economic contraction, expensive repair of crumbling infrastructure, and a normally-complacent populace in an ugly electoral mood. Even if he wins, and I hope he does, Dayton may have reason to rue his decision to run for the office by the time all is said and done.

  5. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 08/12/2010 - 12:00 pm.

    Could you imagine if Time magazine had said something negative about Emmer? “That worthless lefty rag is just part of the liberal media conspiracy.”

  6. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 08/12/2010 - 01:03 pm.

    Dayton was easily the least effective MN Senator of my political life. He was a reliable Dem vote and nothing else. Virtually nothing he did in six years ever suggested that he would be a good person to actually run something as big and complicated as the MN state government.
    I understand that many will vote for him because they don’t like Emmer or Republican policies in general. In a non-zero sum game like politics that’s the way it goes. But seriously, what does Mark Dayton the man offer as a real executive? He’s a non-entity at best and erratic at worst. If his last name was Smith and he didn’t have a wealthy family would he even be on anyone’s radar?

  7. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/12/2010 - 01:06 pm.

    Since you folks don’t like what Time has to say about brave Sir Mark, how about some of his
    Democrat colleagues?

    Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-West Virginia, said, [regarding brave Sir Mark’s rapid retreat from DC], “We in Congress have a responsibility to our constituents and to our nation to carry forward with our work, and that’s what I intend to do.”

    Tom Daschle was concerned that Dayton’s bizarre panic attack might spread.

    “According to a notice circulated among Democratic senators’ staff, Sen. Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, has asked the Sergeant at Arms to brief senators’ chiefs of staff and office managers Wednesday about the threat level to the Capitol.”

    “The notice added, “No one in Homeland Security has recommended closing offices or closing the Capitol building. The Daschle office will remain open.”

    CNN chimes in to put brave Sir Mark’s “secret meeting” excuse to the torch:

    “U.S. government officials confirmed that a briefing was held for Senate leadership a couple of weeks ago to provide lawmakers with an update on the ongoing possibility that terrorists might strike during the period preceding the November 2 election.”

    “But officials said there was no new intelligence concerning an attack and no specifics about a possible time or place.”

    And just to make sure we have no doubt, they repeat:

    “….the officials emphasized there is nothing new to suggest an attack is being planned on Washington or the Capitol.”

    Maybe brave Sir Mark just “hears things” others cannot?

  8. Submitted by Stephan Flister on 08/12/2010 - 01:21 pm.

    Mr. Defor,
    Dayton received 182,681 votes in an August primary in a large complex state despite not having the DFL endorsement (meaning access to the machinery that goes along with that endorsement).
    Seems to me to be a pretty good radar return.

  9. Submitted by John E Iacono on 08/12/2010 - 01:23 pm.

    My humble prediction:

    Dayton, with plenty of financing, will run a hard hitting campaign, and probably keep his lead in the polls, although it will shrink as the opponents hammer away without mercy.

    With the input from dem party leaders, he will be forced, willing or not, into negative campaigning.

    Horner will rise somewhat in the polls as he is seen as a “compromise” between promised higher taxes and promised big spending cuts. But he will not rise to 20%, as voters know a governor without major party support in the legislature will have little influence when it counts apart from his bully pulpit.

    Emmer will, as he has promised, after conferring with the public, unveil his general plans for changing the face of government in the state. He may even get to specific programs and dollars. He will be pilloried by his opponents, but will get a better hearing from the voters. (He won’t shy away from negative political ads, either.)

    It will be a messy campaign, with lots of smoke and mirrors, and plenty of blood on the floor.

    On election day, I expect it will be too close to call.

  10. Submitted by Stephan Flister on 08/12/2010 - 01:39 pm.

    In that same August primary, only 130,318 citizens managed to fill out a Republican gubernatorial ballot for any candidate, compared to Dayton’s 182,681.

    We should also mention the 175,782 MAK voters, and the 80,502 for Entenza.

    That adds up to about 3 times as much DFL enthusiasm as GOP. And Dayton got the plurality of it.

  11. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/12/2010 - 02:17 pm.

    For those with a strong stomach, or a weak brain, like Sir Tom, I’d advise a reading of a recent article in the New Yorker about the US Senate:

    The Empty Chamber: How Broken is the Senate

    Two days after financial reform became law, Harry Reid announced that the Senate would not take up comprehensive energy-reform legislation for the rest of the year. And so climate change joined immigration, job creation, food safety, pilot training, veterans’ care, campaign finance, transportation security, labor law, mine safety, wildfire management, and scores of executive and judicial appointments on the list of matters that the world’s greatest deliberative body is incapable of addressing. Already, you can feel the Senate slipping back into stagnant waters.

    Maybe Mark Dayton did a smart thing to leave the Senate. And maybe his dogged campaign illustrates that cultivating your own garden, in Minnesota, may be worth more to our state than serving in a very badly broken US Senate?

  12. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/12/2010 - 03:24 pm.

    Emmer has promised that he will say something in October — apparently he has nothing to say now.

  13. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/12/2010 - 03:51 pm.

    Oh, Thomas.

    One more time. The Senate was not in session. All 100 senators were at home instead of in Washington.

    Homeland Security raised the threat level for Washington (as they did often after 9/11).

    Dayton was the only senator who was so considerate of his staff that he told them to close the office just in case there was some kind of attack.

    Let it go, would you?

  14. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 08/12/2010 - 03:57 pm.

    Mr Filster, let me take those out or order, if you will. The great disparity in votes was due largely to the fact that the DFL primary was heavily contested while the GOP one wasn’t. There may be an enthusiasm gap but the primary vote totals won’t be the place to look for it.
    And I think you may have misunderstood my question about Dayton. Obviously lots of people voted specifically for him. He has huge name recognition, some portion of it from his previous term as Senator. If he’d been born into a blue collar family with a common name would anyone know about him today?

  15. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/12/2010 - 04:06 pm.

    That’s all Mr. Swift’s got, Bernice. He has a very bad hand: aces and Emmers.

  16. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 08/12/2010 - 04:09 pm.

    It would please me if comments that engaged in childish name-calling (“Senator Franken*”, “Sir Mark”, etc., etc.) did not pass moderation.

  17. Submitted by Stephan Flister on 08/12/2010 - 04:25 pm.

    Mr. DeFor,
    We cannot know what an entirely different Mark Dayton would have done, can we? So, why ask?

    On the other hand, we can know what wealthy people do with their time, money, and energy. Mr. Dayton has made the lifelong choice to do his best to serve the public, including us commonly named blue collar folks.

    As to enthusiasm – we have been hearing all year how Republicans are just chomping at the bit to get in that booth while Democrats are going to find something else to do. An opportunity presented itself for every citizen to demonstrate his or her level of enthusiasm and the Democrats rose to the occasion. Had the field been reversed, I am fairly sure all the Democrats I know would still have voted in order to demonstrate just how important the upcoming general election is. In fact, many of the Democrats I know didn’t really care which of the three viable candidates prevailed. I personally didn’t decide until the morning of the election (I voted MAK). But I will spend as much time and effort as I possibly can between now and November to try to make Dayton’s vote total as big as it can be.

  18. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/12/2010 - 05:06 pm.

    Don’t complain to me, Bernice; I’m just an aggregator of information.

    Tell Sen. Daschle, Sen. Rockefeller (Dayton’s former brother-in-law), CNN, Time, the Star Trib, “The Hill” (“The youthful-looking 58-year-old department-store heir has become the lamest of the Senate’s five lame ducks”) you’re not happy.

    Tell them you don’t like them publishing facts and opinions that cause you discomfort.

  19. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/12/2010 - 05:18 pm.


  20. Submitted by Peder DeFor on 08/12/2010 - 05:29 pm.

    Mr Flister, it’s been long believed that contested elections draw more voters than uncontested ones. If you want to chalk up this result to increased enthusiasm, go ahead. I think you’re mistaken, but it doesn’t really matter. We’ll see what happens in November.
    I think Dayton’s service is laudable including his time teaching. I also think that he has shown virtually no high level ability or leadership. I guess name recognition and family money aren’t enough to impress me.

  21. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/12/2010 - 06:51 pm.

    I could certainly imagine more impressive candidates than Dayton (I think that Rybak was one), but Tom Emmer isn’t.

  22. Submitted by David Harris on 08/12/2010 - 07:39 pm.

    I won’t make any predictions about the gubernatorial election. I merely want to remind readers that Mark Dayton is that rare combination of honesty and compassion which enables voters to really know what to expect.
    Sincerely, David Harris, Red Wing, MN.

  23. Submitted by Stephan Flister on 08/13/2010 - 09:08 am.

    Mr. DeFor,
    I certainly agree that primary turnout is not driven exclusively by enthusiasm, and that contested elections are more, shall we say, interesting. However, there are others who think that showing up for primaries is an indicator of voter enthusiasm, independent of the level of contestedness.

    From this morning’s MinnPost reprint from the Christian Science Monitor

    Why GOP’s predicted gains in midterm elections might be short-lived

    By Linda Feldmann

    …”Most important, the Democrats control both Congress and the White House, and voters will take out their frustration over the state of the country on them. In particular, a well-documented enthusiasm gap, demonstrated most recently in Tuesday’s higher turnout numbers for Republicans over Democrats in the primaries, means GOP voters are more motivated to go out and vote against Democrats than Democrats are to support their own party.”

  24. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/13/2010 - 05:35 pm.

    Actually, a bunch of obstructive Republicans “control” the Senate. The Dems can only get legislation passed if two or three moderate Republicans vote for them.

    President Obama has used the recess appointment only once, I believe, but should imitate George Bush and use it to appoint every person he wants to serve on the regulatory bodies and government departments that are now either short-handed or being run by Bush holdovers because Republicans are holding up Senate confirmation votes.

    Bush even appointed a bunch of people to various positions and then changed the classification of their jobs to civil service. These people can not now be “unappointed” by Obama. Slippery indeed.

  25. Submitted by John E Iacono on 08/14/2010 - 10:51 am.

    (#11) Bill Gleason says: … I’d advise a reading of a recent article in the New Yorker about the US Senate:

    The Empty Chamber: How Broken is the Senate

    >Whew! 18 pages! But well worth the read.

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