Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Mayor Rybak suggests a wet Massachusetts welcome for Tim Pawlenty

The Minneapolis mayor said that if the Tea Party Patriots there truly understood Pawlenty’s record as governor of Minnesota, “they’d throw him into the Boston Harbor.”

R.T. Rybak
R.T. Rybak

Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is to give a big speech to the Tea Party in Massachusetts on Friday, which is being observed as Tax Day by anti-taxers.

Last year, the event attracted former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and more than 10,000 people.

Hard to say if Pawlenty can attract that sort of adoring crowd.

Tim Pawlenty
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Tim Pawlenty

But he certainly did get a harsh welcome to Massachusetts. This afternoon, the state party invited Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak to be the guest of a teleconference. The subject: Tim Pawlenty.

Rybak, who has been very vocal locally about the damage cuts in Local Government Aid have done to Minneapolis and other cities across the state, accepted the invitation with enthusiasm.

He said that if the Tea Party Patriots truly understood Pawlenty’s record as governor of Minnesota, “they’d throw him into the Boston Harbor.”

A year ago, Massachusetts Democrats did not hold a similar event in advance of Palin’s speech to the Tea Party crowd.

So why this year?

“Last year’s rally was strictly a Tea Party event,” said John Walsh, chairman of the Massachusetts Democrats. “This year, with Gov. Pawlenty, it seems more explicitly focused on the presidential race.”

Therefore, Walsh said, it is important for people to get a better understanding of who Pawlenty is.

Rybak said he, too, was participating because of the presidential ambitions of Pawlenty.

“I was happy when he became the former governor,” Rybak said. “I would keep my mouth shut if he had decided to ride off into the sunset.”

But, of course, Pawlenty clearly has no plans to leave politics. So, Rybak said, it will be up to people who dealt with him to define who he is.

Rybak admitted that’s not an easy job. He noted that many Republicans see Pawlenty as “a blank slate.”

“But that should tell you something,” Rybak said. “More than anything else, he was ineffective.”

In the teleconference, which included reporters from the Boston Globe and Boston Herald, Rybak pounded on themes familiar to Minnesotans.

He noted that Pawlenty left Minnesota with a debt of more than $5 billion; that taxes “for 90 percent of Minnesotans” increased dramatically under Pawlenty because of the increases in property taxes resulting from his fiscal policies; and that fees in the state increased by 73 percent during Pawlenty’s two terms.

Rybak also said that Pawlenty as governor had the ability to do “pirouettes” in dancing around issues.

He noted the governor formerly supported tough cap-and-trade legislation for the Great Lakes states but now says he regrets those positions. Rybak also said that at the time of the I-35W bridge collapse, Pawlenty told Rybak and others that he would support a gas tax increase devoted to upgrading the infrastructure. But when he was criticized by anti-taxers, he reversed his position, the mayor said.

Pawlenty is “for things until he’s against them,” he said.

Rybak did offer some compliments — sort of.

The mayor predicted that Pawlenty “will do a wonderful job at the rally.”

He predicted that Pawlenty will “admire the problems” and he’ll “complain about the problems.” But in the end, Rybak said, his record shows he’s incapable of solving problems.

Laughing, Rybak suggested those in Massachusetts listen for one other thing.

“When he’s campaigning in the South,” Rybak said, “he starts droppin’ his G’s” from words.

He hinted that tomorrow, Pawlenty may just start “talking like a Kennedy.”

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