State lawmakers may be focused on solving a nearly $3 billion budget deficit, but this year's race for governor certainly factors into exchanges between Republicans and Democrats at the State Capitol.
House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher is the DFL-endorsed candidate for governor and is keeping an eye on political matters away from the bargaining table.
She took note early Thursday morning that the Republican-endorsed candidate for governor, state Rep. Tom Emmer of Delano, missed a vote on a key natural resources bill. Kelliher said she was puzzled by Emmer's midnight absence, but she declined to comment further.
House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, did instead.
"Rep. Emmer, over the course of the past week for sure, has shown a pattern of not being here for the votes -- whether it be for the governor's budget, whether it be for the entire budget solution, and now for probably the biggest conservation vote," Sertich said. "He may have his reasons. They may be personal. They may be political. But now is the time for people who have a job to do their job."
The Minnesota DFL Party said Emmer has missed 65 votes since earning the GOP endorsement for governor.
"The fact of the matter is that Tom Emmer is missing in action and that's inexcusable," DFL spokeswoman Kristin Sosanie said in a statement. "Minnesota is facing real challenges and DFLers are working hard to balance the budget, hold down property taxes and keep police and firefighters on the streets. Where are you Tom Emmer?"
Emmer missed another vote Thursday afternoon on an interlock ignition requirement for convicted drunken drivers. He said he was tied up at a lunch meeting in Minneapolis, while his other absences were related to family and business matters.
Emmer said if the votes are as important as DFL leaders say they are, then they shouldn't be scheduled in the middle of the night.
"Unfortunately, I'm not in charge," he said. "The Republicans are not running the House. We don't set the schedule. The Democrats do. When it comes to taking votes, I've done the job I'm supposed to do."
Emmer said Rep. Sertich and other DFL leaders should concentrate on solving the budget deficit rather than playing political games.