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If recount forces extended term, Pawlenty says he’ll make needed decisions but won’t seek out new issues

The governor seems like a man eager to leave his job and get on with his future. “I earnestly, genuinely hope it is resolved by Jan. 3,” Pawlenty said today of the process that ultimately will lead to his successor.

Will Tim Pawlenty be able to wave farewell to governor's office on Jan. 3?
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Will Tim Pawlenty be able to wave farewell to governor’s office on Jan. 3?

Gov. Tim Pawlenty seems like a man eager to leave his job and get on with his future.

“I earnestly, genuinely hope it is resolved by Jan. 3,” Pawlenty said today of the process that ultimately will lead to his successor.

Jan. 3 is the date a new governor is to be sworn in. But given the probability of a recount, there’s a good chance Minnesotans won’t know by that time whether Mark Dayton or Tom Emmer is going to succeed Pawlenty.

The governor said he has calls out to the candidates and will offer private meetings with each of them, meetings he hope will make the transition process easier for whoever is the eventual winner.

Until there is resolution to this race, Pawlenty said he will fulfill his constitutional obligation to remain in office.

“In that event, I will address matters as they arise and need to be addressed,” Pawlenty said.

That sounded like the governor will resist any temptation there might be to work with the new Republican majority and quickly move through an agenda that might be blocked if, as seems likely, Dayton finally ends up as governor.

“If issues arise, I’d have to address them,” Pawlenty said. “I won’t go out looking for them.”

Dayton has raised Jan. 15 as the first key date for the next governor. That’s the deadline the last Legislature, which was DFL-controlled, set for the new governor to opt into a federal health program that Dayton and other DFLers believe would bring more than $1 billion into the state. Pawlenty rejected the program. Emmer has said he would, too.

Asked today about the Jan. 15 date, Pawlenty said he wouldn’t change his mind.

“But it’s a deadline the [new] Legislature could re-create,” said Pawlenty.

Given the new makeup of the Legislature, though, that seems unlikely. Many of the new class of Republican legislators were elected, in part, because of opposition to “Obama-care.”

The next big date for any governor is Feb. 3, the required deadline for a governor to submit a budget proposal to the Legislature.

If a recount process is still going on at that time, Pawlenty’s administration would be required to create the budget proposal, which would be very different from one proposed by Dayton.

On the subject of the recount, Pawlenty sounded more like Dayton than his Republican Party’s state chairman, Tony Sutton.

“There is a process in place,” he said. “It will be transparent, open and fair.”

When asked if he trusts Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Pawlenty did a little two-step around the question.

The new recount legislation (passed last session) means, he said, that everybody “will be under such bright lights” that nobody could get away with cheating.

In talking with the local media, Pawlenty typically has been more calm about the integrity of Minnesota’s voting than he has when appearing on national television and radio programs. On those shows, he often has spread rumors about voting irregularities that have had no basis in fact.

He did mention today that among the outcomes of the Franken-Coleman recount were “troubling” revelations of felons voting: “Those were isolated cases – we hope.” He also said there were “other allegations.”

Asked about Sutton’s strident remarks about the integrity of the system, Pawlenty did more dancing. Although he mostly talked about the integrity of the system, he mentioned “that issue in Hennepin County,” where a mistake in reporting vote tabulations was found – and publicly corrected – on Election Night. Pawlenty suggested Sutton might have information on voting irregularities that he doesn’t have.

Mostly, however, Pawlenty talked about packing up and moving on. (It’s been anticipated by some that he’ll announce he’s officially in the race for the Republican presidential nomination sometime in January, when his campaign biography is to be released. Pawlenty has said he would make a decision sometime in the first quarter of 2011.)

If Dayton does end up as governor, would Pawlenty have any advice for him in how to deal with a Legislature of the opposing party?

“I got most of what I wanted,” Pawlenty said. “I don’t know if I’d give him advice.”

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