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Amid meeting with governor and political planning, Mark Dayton is juggling ‘real-life decisions,’ too

Dayton met with Gov. Pawlenty and then, like many pet lovers, worried about his sick dog. Decisions about the fate of Dakota likely are the most emotional he’s making. Political decisions are daunting but come from the head more than the heart.

Mark Dayton greeted the press following his meeting on Tuesday with Gov. Pawlenty.

MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Mark Dayton greeted the press following his meeting on Tuesday with Gov. Pawlenty.

Amid the meetings with the governor and selecting transition teams and recount teams and dealing occasionally with the media, real life does go on for the people who would be governor.

The most-likely-governor-elect, Mark Dayton, for example, is dealing with the life-and-death decisions around one of his 8½-year-old German shepherds, Dakota. The dog has cancer, has undergone surgery and on Wednesday is to begin chemotherapy with University of Minnesota vets.

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“Without chemo, she can live one to three months,” Dayton said today. “They tell me she can make it six months with chemo. … We’re starting treatment tomorrow [Wednesday]. Then, I’ll have to make the decision what sort of a quality of life she’s having.”

Truth be told, the decisions around Dakota likely are the most emotional Dayton is making these days.

Those other decisions — around recounts and legal processes and starting to at least think about who might be offered positions in his administration — are daunting but will be made from the head more than the heart.

Dayton did meet late this afternoon with Gov. Tim Pawlenty, an hour-long discussion that he said was “gracious” and “respectful.”

Pawlenty, who had a similar meeting with Tom Emmer on Monday, shared his thoughts on the state of the budget. He made his administration available to Dayton and even offered to take him on a tour of the governor’s mansion.

Dayton, who once worked in the administration of Gov. Rudy Perpich, said the last time he was at the mansion was probably around 1990 — and even then, he said, he can’t recall ever seeing the second floor, the residential portion of the building.

Dayton seems at peace at where things are in this process.

His substantial lead makes him confident that he will be governor, although he says, for the record, “I’m not presuming or claiming anything. … But I’m devoting all my waking hours assuming I’ll be elected governor. I assume Rep. Emmer is doing the same.”

But Dayton also seemed to gently draw a couple of lines in the sand.

Given the closeness of the race, the recount process should proceed, he said.

But, after the canvass and the recount, which Secretary of State Mark Ritchie says should be concluded by Dec. 14, Dayton made it clear that he thinks Emmer should step aside, assuming the numbers favor Dayton as clearly as they do now.

Unless there are “extraordinary circumstances,” Dayton said he believes that it would be wrong for Emmer to challenge recount tallies in court.  He quickly added that he is expecting no different behavior of Emmer from what he would expect of himself.

Emmer hasn’t said what he might do following the recount, although the Republican Party has been rattling challenge sabers for a week.

Dayton again cast aspersions on those who “cast aspersions” on the recount process, with no evidence of wrongdoing.

Dayton also seemed to mildly challenge the Legislature, which will be in Republican hands when the session begins in January.

Assuming he is governor, he will present his budget, and it will be up to the Legislature to counter with one of its own.

“Then we’ll begin to negotiate,” he said.

But, as he did throughout the campaign, Dayton noted that cuts in spending Republicans may want to make “are about real Minnesotans who have needs.”

But all of that lies down a recount road that Minnesotans are getting used to following.

Dayton did say that if the recount process is completed by Dec. 14, and if his lead holds and if there are no challenges, he believes there still will be time to put together his administration in a transparent way. He still hopes to have “stakeholders”question prospective commissioners.

Meanwhile, he said, he may begin to at least tentatively offer positions in his administration.

“I can tell someone they’ll have my offer if I’m elected governor,” he said.

So, what should we call Dayton in the meantime?  He’s not officially the governor-elect, although the odds still clearly favor him.

“Call me Mark,” he said.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.