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Dayton on 'Dayton unbound': Get used to it

Gov. Mark Dayton
Office of the Governor
Gov. Mark Dayton

After a blitz of back-to-back on-air interviews the morning after his annual State of the State address, Gov. Mark Dayton chose to unwind a bit for one of his final meetings of the day. He switched out of his suit and tie and into a polo shirt and a jacket, cracked open a can of diet Coke and sank into a deep leather chair in the library of the governor’s residence in St. Paul.

It was an appropriate change of pace, perhaps, to discuss “Dayton unbound,” a term he coined himself shortly after winning re-election last November. At 68 years old, it was meant to describe Dayton’s approach to his second term as governor — and his final stint in any public office, he says.

But it’s also come to mean something very specific as the 2015 legislative session enters its final month. In fact, it might be better described as Dayton “all in.” Earlier this year, when Dayton laid out his priorities, they included several ambitious initiatives: a 10-year transportation funding proposal funded by a gas tax increase; 50-foot buffer zones required along all waterways on farmland; a robust package of construction projects; universal pre-kindergarten education; and investments in higher education.

What he didn’t say, at least at the time, was that those priorities aren’t only for the upcoming two-year budget he and lawmakers are crafting — they’re for his next four years as governor.

“I’ve put on the table pretty much everything that I’m aware of so far, and we will see where we come out of this session and we will see where we go from there,” Dayton said. “If there’s no bonding bill this session, my bonding bill proposal is already set for next year…same thing with transportation, if nothing happens, we will come back next year.” 

‘I feel unbound’

Dayton “unbound” shows in more than just his agenda — it’s in his style. He makes more public appearances than he used to, and he frequently spends long stints in front of reporters answering questions. During his interview with MinnPost, he candidly talked about how he stumbled over a few parts of his State of the State address, and joked about how he wanted to “mail this one in.” (“If one of the Minnesota [college] hockey teams would have gotten into the Frozen Four, I would have had the perfect excuse,” he said.)

“I feel unbound,” Dayton added, citing the example of his push for 50-foot buffers that he says will protect the state’s waterways from the pollution created by agricultural runoff. He’s taken heat from Republicans and agriculture groups, who say the proposal is too costly and applies a one-size-fits all approach to farms across the state. Regardless, the Democratic governor has been traveling the state to take sometimes-heated questions from the community about the plan.

“People were astonished that a governor of a farming and agriculture state was willing to confront the agriculture industry and the sector,” he said. “I think a vast majority of farmers are already practicing wise stewardship, but the official organizations — the Farm Bureau, the Farmers Union, the AgriGrowth Council, the corn growers, the soybean growers — are all officially organizationally lined up in fierce opposition of this. I don’t think I could have risked that a year ago when I was going to be up for re-election. Well, I don’t have to worry about another election, I have to worry about whether the water in Minnesota is going to be clean when I leave office.”

The buffer proposal is one thing on the list he’d like to see passed sooner rather than later, along with his proposal to pump more than half of the nearly $2 billion budget surplus into early and higher education. But he’s running into pushback on both.

Education is ‘absolutely essential’

Neither the Republicans who control the House nor the Democrats who control of the Senate share his priorities when it comes to his signature education proposal — to fund pre-kindergarten education for four year olds across the state, and even education advocates are divided how to help close the state’s achievement gap, one of the worst in the nation.

“Early childhood advocates are split over whether the money should go to pre-K in the schools or more money for targeted scholarships for quality childcare,” Dayton said. “I say it’s not either/or. It’s both. But I’m certainly going to emphasize that, higher education too. The whole spectrum of education is absolutely essential.” 

His transportation bill has been an even tougher sell, and the governor sounded pessimistic about its chances this session. While he and Republicans have come closer to agreeing on the need — both have put forward plans that fund roads and bridges to the tune of $8 billion and $7 billion, respectively, over the next decade — his push for using a wholesale tax on gasoline to pay for it and added money for mass transit is gaining little traction in the Legislature.

“On one hand, everybody knows we have to spend more on transportation, and most everybody doesn’t want to pay for it, so how do you close that gap?” Dayton asked. “It may be that it’s not going to be viable this year, and it’s only going to be harder next year in an election year.”

But he has one thing working in his favor: His relationships are solid with the two leaders of the House and Senate, Speaker Kurt Daudt and Majority Leader Tom Bakk.

Dayton said he’s mended fences with Bakk, who he accused of stabbing him in the back in a surprisingly frank press conference earlier in session. Bakk and Senate Democrats had voted to delay pay raises Dayton enacted for more than two dozen of his commissioners, and at the time the governor said he was shocked by the move.

“We had that one altercation, but he’s a Ranger, and one thing of many things I like about Iron Rangers is you know where they stand,” Dayton said. “He knows where I stand. We've both been involved in politics for a long time, and you can trade blows one day and put your arms around each other the next day.”

As for Daudt, Dayton said he’s impressed with his style of leadership, even given the limited years he’s spent in state politics (Daudt was first elected in the fall of 2010). “He seems sincere and reasonable. I could probably ruin his reputation with his caucus by saying that, but he is,” Dayton said. “I think there’s just good quality leadership, but the question is: How are their caucuses going to respond to the kind of compromise that will be necessary?”

Still, Dayton doesn’t seem particularly concerned that he will run into another government shutdown like in 2011, when he and a newly GOP-controlled Legislature came to an impasse over solving a nearly $6 billion budget deficit. “We have a surplus now, and it’s a lot easier to compromise on how to spend a surplus, including tax cuts, then it was back then trying to solve a deficit,” Dayton said. “I’m cautiously optimistic that we will avoid a shutdown, whether we will get done on time remains to be seen. The end games are always dicey.”

Guardian for his policies

Looking further ahead into the next three and a half years, Dayton sees his role more as a guardian of policies he’s already enacted than a creator of new ones. He’s worried about Republican proposals to cut $2 billion in taxes as well as $1 billion from the state’s health and human services budget, and he wants to see more money put into education, like he and DFL legislators did when they funded all-day kindergarten education in 2013.

“When people say, ‘Let’s skip the investments and just pocket the change,’ they are going to lead us back to the problems we had in the previous decade,” Dayton said. “Finally, now we have a sound budget situation and a really sound economy…and so now you want to toss all that in the garbage and go back to what wasn’t working before? Sometimes I feel like I’m going to continue to be fighting that fight and keeping us on the track we are on. I expect that I will have to be the guardian for what I believe is the best for Minnesota.”

There are things Dayton expects to come up that he cannot predict or completely plan for. One issue he knows will come to a head while he’s governor is the clash between environmentalists and mining interests on the Iron Range. 

By the end of the year, a final environmental impact statement will be complete on the controversial copper-nickel mining project PolyMet, in Hoyt Lakes. Pro-mining interests want to see the project go forward to create jobs, a pressure that has increased in recent weeks as taconite mining operations in Northeastern Minnesota have shed employees. But environmentalists say the mining operation, the first of its kind in the region, could spoil the area’s pristine lakes for hundreds of years to come. 

Immediately after session, Dayton plans to ask advocates of PolyMet to give him examples of similar proposals that have worked, and he’ll ask opponents to give him examples of projects that have failed. Then he’ll travel to each of those projects to formulate his final opinion. No matter what happens, Dayton knows it’s going to be an “extremely explosive issue” that will consume his final years in the the executive office. “It’s going to be one of the most — perhaps the most — contentious issue in my two terms. I’ve seen the kind of extreme passions it arouses on both sides, with the Boundary Waters and other issues of resource use. Ninety-five percent of the people who are engaged in that issue now, their minds are already made up,” he said. “I want jobs for Northeastern Minnesota and I want strong environmental protection for Northeastern Minnesota, and I’ve always believed the two are complementary objectives and they can be mutually obtainable objectives if we put our minds to it.”

And as for his legacy? Dayton had spent that morning answering questions about what he wants Minnesotans to remember him by when he retires in 2018, so he was ready to tick off a handful of items: all-day kindergarten, economic development, investments in higher education, preparing the state’s next workforce and, yes, the Vikings stadium.

“I think the stadium will be seen ultimately for what it’s being seen as already, as an incredible catalyst for economic growth in a dilapidated region of east Minneapolis,” he said. “That is going to generate more vitality for the city and more tax revenue for the city and the state. That will ultimately be seen as a really important step forward.”

And he hopes he can add a few more things — like transportation revenues and pre-K — by the end of his term. To try and pass those agenda items over the next few years, Dayton said he thinks he’s in a “unique position” given he’s not running for re-election, but he’s not going to be “reckless or squander my political capital” in the process, he said.

“I don’t want to go through my last three and a half years being despised for it by the people of Minnesota,” he said. “That would be a miserable way to paddle up stream, but I can take risks that I couldn't have otherwise, and I hope those risks will turn out well.” 

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Comments (50)

Now that he isn't running

anymore, he can finally be honest in his remarks, is that it?

Yes,

Remember Tim Pawlenty's plans to travel to the arctic with Will Steiger shortly after his 2006 re-election? Suddenly he realized that he may still be running for one time and the green trip to the arctic was immediately quashed. Dayton's priorities have and will continue to produce positive results for this state. Thank goodness for Scott Walker for providing the comparative ruler of his results in WI to Dayton's in MN. If results mean anything, Dayton has to be congratulated for progress to date. If some of us are incapable of that I offer this remedy: "Rationalization is the key to mental health."

just what we wanted

Is this what we wanted? Someone who is unwilling to work with others?

No, Joe..you're confused.

You're thinking of Scott Walker and Nikki Haley.
II love how when a democrat shows some spine, you people complain about a lack of compromise, but when a republican does it, it's bold leadership and adherence to principles.
I'm glad Dayton is sticking to his guns...it's what I voted for.

never said that

I never said anything about republicans but think it is funny how defensive democrats get about things like this but it was ok for them to spew venom at pawlenty when he was in office. I'm also not saying pawlenty was perfect (not even close) but I think people get a little too defensive about this. I'm sure you are glad you voted for him but lighten up Frances.

I do not think of him ..

as "someone who is unwilling to work with others".
I think of him as a Governor who has the strength to push for 'agenda items' that will make our state a better state. And he is doing it honestly knowing he is doing it for all of the people who matter in our state, not to please other politicians so he can garner favor. I am proud of our Governor.

strength?

I wouldn't call it that. I would call it trying to be a bully. I don't think anyone would look to favorably on a governor that only wants to do things his way when republicans are in control (see Pawlenty vs democrats).

Republicans are in control?

Republicans have a majority in the House. That is only one of two parts of the Legislature (the other, in case you were wondering, is called the "Senate"). I've done the math several times, and controlling one of two houses never adds up to being "in control."

control

That doesn't change the fact that he is coming off as trying to be a bully to get his way and only his way. And yes I am well aware there is a house and a senate. My point is that democrats are not in complete control of both yet the governor doesn't seem to want to work with anyone.

Bullying

He was re-elected by a comfortable majority.

He had an agenda that was not secret when he was re-elected.

He is now advocating for that agenda.

You call that "bullying." I think you need to look up what that word really means.

Incidentally, if there were a Republican Governor, and a Republican Senate, but a DFL House, would the Governor pushing his agenda still be "bullying?" Or would you call it "standing up for his principles?"

He'd call it "a mandate."

He'd call it "a mandate."

similarities

I'm just drawing a few similarities. I think that was lost on you. I recall the name calling and loathing of the last gov.

Disingenuous

Any time a Democrat or liberal fights for something, it somehow has to be illegitimate. In this case, the dishonest rhetorical device used is to call it 'bullying'.

sure

I guess then it was also disingenuous to spew all the rhetoric at pawlenty when he was in office as well. What goes around comes around just don't be so defensive about it. By no means is what Dayton is doing illegitimate at all. In fact I don't really mind it but if you think he is any different from any other politician you are mistaken.

Yay, Mark Dayton!

I love Mark Dayton. We have been so lucky to have him.

Education Challenge

I remember how optimistic I was when Tim Pawlenty became Governor. I really thought he would be a good Governor. Then came no new taxes, "fee" increases, borrowing from the schools, running for President, and I ended up terribly disappointed in his leadership.

With Dayton, I did not have that high of an expectation after his stint as US Senator. In contrast, I have been very pleased with his leadership. His commitment to education - all day K, higher education, quality child care, and now early education - has been spot on and he has delivered. He has been, and is, an excellent Governor.

The challenge for Education Minnesota is what do you want to get out of this session - more money for existing teachers (per pupil formula) or more money for new teachers (universal preschool) because there is not enough money for both. When you add in all the existing needs (including inflation) along with the emerging child care, school readiness, universal preschool, PreK-12, World's Best Work Force, and higher ed needs - you get more than you can pay for. My suggestion to the Governor would be prioritized in this order - per pupil formula increased annually at 3%, increase child care scholarships to appease the House and the private sector, and keep ramping up school readiness for 3 & 4 year-olds until you get enough funding for universal preschool. If you fund universal preschool at the level currently proposed you will lay off experienced teachers and cut programs. Most school districts will have no other choice.

Agree on Dayton completely

"With Dayton, I did not have that high of an expectation after his stint as US Senator. In contrast, I have been very pleased with his leadership. His commitment to education - all day K, higher education, quality child care, and now early education - has been spot on and he has delivered. He has been, and is, an excellent Governor." Well stated- this is exactly how I feel about Dayton- an abysmal senator, a terrible retail politician, yet a visionary governor. I think he's done well by himself.

Mark Dayton needs to listen more and talk less...

I doubt Mark Dayton could ever play in a sandbox with others. He is not a good listener since he thinks his ideas are what Minnesotans need and want without even listening to the voters. I never want a trust fund baby to be our governor ever again.

What Minnesotans Want

Polls are showing that Governor Dayton has a 54% approval rating, and only a 34% disapproval.

Of course, that assumes the majority of Minnesotans know what real Minnesotans need or want.

Sure, MIke

That must be why he was duly elected by the voters of this state...twice.

Or

Or he was elected because the GOP ran 2 really poor candidates?

I am hoping that Dayton and the DFL keep pushing their tax and spend agenda, at some point the pendulum will be pushed too far and the people will hopefully start asking for financial accountability again.

By the way, Scott Walker was elected twice and survived an extra challenege. By your rationale, he must be even a better Gov than Dayton.

Oh yes

I'm sure that's it. Minnesotans REALLY would prefer the conservative ideal, but since the GOP ran lousy candidates they chose Dayton. So this would suggest A. conservative conviction in your average voter is laughably weak. B. you believe the voting public to be immensely stupid, voting in a governor diametrically opposed to their own beliefs for no apparent reason, since whether you liked the republican challengers or not, its not as if they were invisible, or their conservative bonafides unknown or C. (the most likely) You are entirely wrong about how widespread and popular your conservative opinions are, and continue to believe you represent the majority of public thought, even though election after election prove you wrong.

Exaggeration

"election after election prove you wrong"

There have been 2 elections. The first was close, however the third party candidate swayed the result. During the second, Dayton was the incumbent and the GOP ran the non-charismatic Johnson.

"Minnesotans REALLY would prefer the conservative ideal"

Actually I believe Minnesoteans prefer the "Moderate to Conservative" ideal. That is why I am happy that the voters are getting to see how far left the Governor is now that he is "unbound". (ie tax and spend) Sometimes I wish the DFL still had complete control, then folks would see how rough things would get if Dayton truly was "unbound". Then I remember to be thankful for the GOP controlled House.

Of course

As the GOP has been such a ringing success on any level it gets to govern... Just say what you mean, you think poor people are inferior to you and yours, you believe poor people vote Democratic because they are stupid and like free stuff ergo any sane rational person HAS to be conservative. Never in all that supposition does the thought cross your mind that maybe, MAYBE people vote for liberal candidates because they believe the fundamental premise of conservatism is wrong. That by voting conservative all they would accomplish is to harm themselves and others so that a few can live free of any care in the world. But then that is the fundamental nature of belief, still holding something true even in the face of contradictory evidence.

Where to Start

I think both the far Left and far Right both doom poor people to stay poor.

The far Left wants to give them free stuff without expecting effort / improvements from them. The far Left prevents the Public School System, Government Bureaucrats and Union Employees from being held accountable for generations of academic failure and high costs that trap unlucky people in generational poverty.

The far Right denies that Unlucky people need a lot of help from the Lucky folk. They deny the difficulties of escaping poverty. They fight against birth control, abortion rights and other things that can save poor people from getting poorer when they do something irresponsible.

As for me thinking poor people are "inferior"... I disagree, some of my best friends are working poor. If anything I feel empathy for them after watching them starting to get ahead, then they will do something stupid that gets them fired, bankrupt, etc.

Financial accountability

I prefer the version of financing where we pay for the services we need with taxes rather than borrowing, shifting and cutting the services we need. The state of Minnesota is currently in the best financial shape in 10 years and Dayton deserves a lot of the credit for that.

Causation vs Correlation

Dayton took over after a major recession and after the GOP had kept a tight rein on spending. He oversaw increasing taxes that did not need to be increased and wants to increase them even more. So of course the government is in "good financial" shape.

The question of course is what will be the long term consequences of these unnecessary tax increases?

By the way, I kind of think the government should be using the rainy day funds, shifts, borrowing, cuts, etc during a recession. The alternative is that they are holding too much our private funds than necessary at all times.

So, Obama has to 'own' the

So, Obama has to 'own' the national economy within a year of taking office... and I'd guess by your judgement, the fact that the national economy is so much better than in 09 is entirely due to congressional republicans. Dayton can't own the MN economy 5 years after taking office. Got it.

"Republicans were in charge once, so everything that's good that happened since that is to their credit" doesn't cut the mustard.

Balance

I guess I never see the "Executive" as solely responsible for success or failure. Dayton's excessive taxing and spending ways were only allowed during years 3 & 4 when the DFL had both Houses, otherwise thankfully the GOP folks were there to temper things.

Remember year 3 when they passed several new taxes and a lot of new spending, and year 4 when they repealed their questionable new taxes before the election and passed that HUGE bonding bill that we will be paying off for decades.

Regarding Obama, he has had little complete control over anything except maybe foreign policy. So people are likely blowing hot air if they blame or praise him excessively.

long term consequences

Our children will be better educated

Maybe

However until bureaucrats and union members within the education system are held accountable for the achievement gap that they help to propagate, I don't think giving more more money to a poorly performing system is the answer.

By the way, most of the lucky kids with great parents are already getting great educations because the Parents compensate for gaps in the system. The extra spend will only really help the unlucky kids, if the spend can be focused where they need it, and not where the bureaucrats and union members want it.

They must not have been THAT poor of candidates...

Conservatives just sent one of them to congress.

Really

He won the District that Michele Bachman used to have. I am pretty sure any GOP candidate can win that district.

So republican candidates are so flawed

that they can only win in gerrymandered districts? You don't have to answer...it was a rhetorical question.

Some

Some are pretty weak... Just like some DFL candidates are.

I know I was amazed when Dayton won in 2010... He has actually been better than I thought he would be. Except during those 2 years when he signed off on all that taxing and spending.

Courage in politics

Dayton had identified very clear priorities and is working hard to achieve them, over the objections of politicians who would prefer to put off today's work until tomorrow (or never).

Our roads and bridges are in terrible shape. We pay every day for their issues - in deaths, accidents, car repairs and congestion-related delays. He has proposed a strong approach to tend to the problem, with a funding source. Don't blame him for pointing out the obvious. Blame those who don't act to approve it or a similar plan that achieves the same objective. Or be a Governor Pawlenty whose stinginess related in the I35 bridge collapse - which was the perfect illustration of the result of inaction. If his idea is imperfect, improve it.

Or early childhood education. Our students, particularly those from low income homes, do poorly in school. We use bandaids to address the problem, but aren't willing to change the way we educate to get superior results. At the start was all day-kindergarten and now the proposal of universal pre-K education, later would be a mandatory attendance requirement to 18.

Some would say spend less and target the money at the poor, as most of the far larger amount would be on middle class kids. Earth, to experts. We have two issues - helping the poor to rise out of poverty and keeping more people in the middle class. Many people have already fallen from middle class to low income status because they cannot keep up educationally. You do not know at age four all the kids that are high risk, because life in the middle class is tenuous and a divorce can change everything. The only purpose for spending less money on children is to provide tax relief to the affluent, so they have even more money to buy enrichment and other advantages for their already privileged children. Making it a "welfare" program makes it a total target for Republicans next time their is a burp in the economy. Improve Dayton's idea if you wish, but don't pretend that it isn't a major issue that requires a big financial commitment.

I don't necessarily agree with Dayton that pre-K has to be required or always provided by licensed teachers in a public school - if parents don't want their for their children, they can have other educational options. But to deny children the opportunity to learn and grow to fatten the wallets of the rich - simply not acceptable.

Or take the idea of agricultural strips. Farmers have the right to use water, but not pollute it. Dayton's idea would greatly reduce farm runoff that creates dirty, unsafe water. If you don't like his proposal, come up with a workable alternative - but don't spread your manure suggesting it isn't a problem that needs our attention.

A courageous politician is someone who does the right thing at the right time for the right reasons. Politicians like that used to be the norm - and not as in Norm Coleman. Dayton is an imperfect person trying to do his best and there is a lot to admire and emulate in him.

proof

"Or take the idea of agricultural strips. Farmers have the right to use water, but not pollute it. Dayton's idea would greatly reduce farm runoff that creates dirty, unsafe water. If you don't like his proposal, come up with a workable alternative - but don't spread your manure suggesting it isn't a problem that needs our attention."

You have no proof of this and neither does Dayton. That is why he has not ever given an amount of reduction his proposal would have. It's pretty hard to buffer land that slopes away from waters but don't tell the genius in charge that because he knows better and won't back down.

Are you saying

Are you saying there is no pollution in rivers and streams? Or are you saying there is pollution, but not from agricultural runoff? Or are you saying there is no proof that the agricultural runoff is from agriculture?

proof

I am saying there is no proof the buffers will greatly reduce the amount of runoff and pollution since there has been no amount of reduction from the buffers given. At no time did I say there is no pollution or that it isn't from agriculture. The proposal is not based on any science and is arbitrary.

Study linked here

The study of riparian buffers informing Dayton's decision is here-

http://www.bwsr.state.mn.us/drainage/DWG/Study_of_Riparian_Buffer_Areas-...

Thanks

Thanks for providing a link that proves my point. Not one spot in the entire linked study was there an amount of benefit to water quality given. I'm sure this played into Daytons decision but how do you justify an amount of buffer for all waters (including those that do not need it) when you don't know what kind of benefit you will get? I find it very concerning that a buffer would be mandated on a drainage ditch that has a natural slope away from the water back into the field. How do you assess the benefit of that?

Dayton unwound

May he relax in front of the public, rise above his frequent petulance, and become "Dayton unwound."

Stop Dredging up the Past

This story had nothing to do with Pawlenty,Walker or anyone else. Why not throw in some Bush and Reagan comments. If you can't make an honest comment about the topic at hand don't bother. Having to sift through the comments for some constructive dialogue is a challenge.

Just out of curiosity

As it relates to this article, what would an example of an honest comment be, and what would the elements of a constructive dialogue consist of?

As to whether or not references to Tim Pawlenty or Scott Walker - - or Ronald Reagan, George Bush Senior or Junior, or anyone else from "way back when" - - are appropriate, or whether or not different views on what the best governmental policies may or may not be that include historical perspectives are appropriate, I always think of the old saying:

“We study the past to understand the present; we understand the present to guide the future.”

When you say or infer that - in this case - any reference to anything other than the current governor and his (potential) impact on the current situation is irrelevant, it seems to say you believe everything related is happening in some kind of contextual vacuum to which all (honest) comments and (constructive) dialogue should be confined.

Or maybe I'm missing your point.

I think

I think comparisons between Dayton and Walker are excellent because it shows the pendulum in relative terms.

Wisconsin went too far to the Left and Walker is bringing it back towards the Right. Minnesota went too far to the Right and Dayton is trying to drag it to the Left.

The good news is that Dayton's efforts if successful will set us up for another correction.

Yeah

all of that low unemployment and economic success...ick. Please help us GOP.

And relative to Minnesota,

And relative to Minnesota, Wisconsin is falling on it's face. And relative the the nation, Minnesota is on or near the top.

Fair Comparison

Here is the least biased comparison I could find, and it does little to describe the starting points of each State. (ie where the pendulum was in 2010)
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/24/opinion/sunday/right-vs-left-in-the-mi...

However we know that Ventura and Pawlenty had been working hard to hold government costs down. Whereas I get a feeling that Wisc was likely overspending.

So MN was a pretty lean and mean state ready to recover from the recession, then the Dems jacked up taxes and spending, bonds and spending, etc. So of course the State is doing great right now... We are living high on the hog on borrowed money and tax revenues that may not be sustainable.

So the question is what will happen in 5 years?

Well...

you know what they say about those that ignore the past.

Why?

Are the comments about Pawlenty and Walker too uncomfortable? Or by "constructive dialogue" do you mean "equal time given to Dayton's perceived failures?" If we brought up the Governor's personal issues, would that be an "honest comment?"