Gov. Mark Dayton started out opposed to medical marijuana, then suggested it wasn't much of an issue, then proposed a Mayo Clinic study and now doesn't want to talk about it anymore.
It's a pattern of behavior his opponents say they've seen repeatedly during his first term as governor. Whether it's a Vikings stadium, business and cigarette taxes, or medical marijuana, some Republicans say Dayton's policy shifts show he's inconsistent and erratic.
It's a theme they're likely to hammer all the way to Election Day in November.
Five GOP candidates for governor appeared at a news conference last week to criticize Dayton for signing a bill last year that includes a new Senate office building. Dayton says he still supports the building, but current plans are too expensive.
"This constant drone of 'I didn't know until I got caught' is enough. That's not leadership. That's abdicating your responsibility," said Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, one of Dayton's GOP challengers. "I think all of us collectively have had enough of it. It's time for a change."
Others criticized Dayton for signing the Vikings stadium bill into law but complained later that the Vikings secretly slipped a seat license fee into the bill.
For his part, Dayton isn't flinching from the criticism that he's a flip-flopper.
"Winston Churchill once said that 'I'd rather be right than consistent,' so I do what I think is right," he said. "I'm not always right, but I do what I think is best for Minnesota. I make my judgments. Others make theirs. That's the nature of the process."
Republican opponents say his handling of the medical marijuana issue at the state Capitol is typical of a pattern of inconsistent behavior he has demonstrated over his term. Dayton lurched back and forth on the issue, drawing criticism from supporters of medical marijuana.
Here's a sampling of what he's said since January.
• "I told law enforcement groups when I ran for office four years ago that I would not support medical marijuana over their strident opposition, and they are still stridently opposed." — TPT Almanac, Jan. 31
• "I'm told by law enforcement that you can buy marijuana in any city in Minnesota. We have the distribution system already set up. It's extra legal. It's basically not a crime, excuse me a very minor crime, for people who possess an amount for personal use." — conference call with reporters, March 13.
• "The real goal is to help as many of these kids as possible. The experiment is part of the framework of it but our real goal is to help people and to relieve suffering and pain." — news conference, March 21.
• "Absent the interests of the authors in accepting something that can be supported more broadly, I don't think there's anywhere to go this session." — MPR News interview, March 25.
• "I've said all I'm going to say about medical marijuana. You had statements. You asked questions. I'll give you another statement. I'm just not going to discuss it further." — news conference, March 28.
The governor has switched positions on issues before.
When he ran in 2010 he said he wouldn't back an increase in cigarette taxes. But last year he proposed one and signed it into law — $1.60 per pack — saying health officials convinced him it would stop kids from taking up smoking.
His shifting stance also applied to sales taxes on businesses. After opposing it in his campaign, his proposed budget last year included expanding sales taxes to consumer and business services while lowering the overall rate.
"Tax reform has strong support from an ever increasing number of Minnesotans, who believe the current system is unfair to them. Most of them are right," he said in January 2013.
Dayton dropped the plan two months later following heavy criticism from businesses.
"It doesn't have the support of the public. It doesn't have the support of the Legislature, and now it's not going to have my support," he said in March 2013.
Part of the measure did get his support last May as part of an overall budget deal, when Dayton signed a bill that included three new sales taxes on businesses.
"Compromise means you agree to things you don't agree with. I've said that all along," he said.
About two months later, Dayton started pushing to repeal those business taxes, including one taxing business equipment repair.
"The biggest mistake in the last legislative session was the very last night, last minute, somebody put in this tax on agricultural repair," he said during FarmFest in August. "I'm against it."
Those business taxes were repealed when Dayton signed a tax bill 10 days ago.
At least one Republican isn't complaining about Dayton's approach.
Rep. Jim Abeler of Anoka is a candidate for the U.S. Senate. He praised Dayton this week for agreeing to increase by 5 percent payments to home and community based health care workers, after first supporting a smaller raise.
"The governor has shown that he's responsive to public pressure," Abeler said. "He's changed his mind on a number of things, which is how a governor should act. It's refreshing for me after 16 years to know that people still listen."
As November approaches Abeler is likely to be a rare Republican to have kind words for the governor.