Pawlenty passes the baton to Dayton

Dayton and Pawlenty
Gov.-elect Mark Dayton, left, met with outgoing Gov. Tim Pawlenty Thursday at the state Capitol, to discuss the transition from the old administration to the new.
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Gov.-elect Mark Dayton met behind closed doors Thursday to discuss Dayton's transition to office. Pawlenty and his wife, Mary, were then scheduled to give Dayton a tour of the governor's residence.

Even though the two have heavily criticized each other on the campaign trail, their news conference after the meeting was amicable.

"While we do disagree on matters, we understand that's the greatness and the strength of our democracy," said Dayton. "Countries that only have one political party or one leader to choose from, they have far worse governments than we are so privileged to have in this country."

Pawlenty, clad in a red tie, and Dayton, who was wearing a blue tie, talked about the transfer of power from a Republican governor to a Democratic governor. Pawlenty described it as a "ceremonial passing of the baton," and said he instructed his staff to make themselves available to Dayton and his staff.

"Whatever Gov.-elect Dayton needs, we're going to get it to him promptly and professionally and as fully as we can," Pawlenty said.

Dayton also made one bipartisan gesture when he announced that he was going to keep Pawlenty's Transportation Commissioner, Tom Sorel, on the job. Sorel has been in charge of MnDOT since 2008. Dayton said he acted quickly because Sorel had another job offer in another part of the country.

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Dayton has a little more than four weeks to build the first Democratic administration in two decades. The window was compressed because of a recount that ended with Republican Tom Emmer's concession Wednesday. While Dayton had a team working on the transition, he couldn't extend job offers until now.

Dayton said he has received applications for executive branch jobs from other people in the Pawlenty administration and from sitting Democratic legislators, none of whom were identified. He plans to announce his chief of staff Friday.

Dayton had yet to visit his official transition space in a building adjacent to the Capitol. He will be able to access a $162,000 transition budget.

Dayton said he hasn't given thought to what kind of inaugural celebration he'll have. But efforts to pay for it are off the ground.

A "Dayton Inaugural Committee" is officially registered with the IRS. The committee was set up Wednesday night, mere hours after Emmer conceded.

The fundraising team includes advisers that have surrounded Dayton during his campaign and his transition. It will be chaired by Dana Anderson, Dayton's campaign manager.

The meeting between Pawlenty and Dayton is a pivot for the state, since the two major parties disagree on spending and tax policy.

During the campaign, Dayton repeatedly criticized Pawlenty's refusal to raise taxes, and warned it was harming the state's services. Pawlenty had said Dayton's plan to raise income taxes on Minnesota's top earners would harm the state's business climate.

While Pawlenty didn't make an outright pledge to abstain from criticizing Dayton, he did say he appreciated his predecessor, Gov. Jesse Ventura, for taking that approach.

Pawlenty may also spend a lot of his time focusing on another chief executive -- President Obama. Pawlenty says he's considering a possible run for president in 2012.

Dayton takes his oath Jan. 3. Past governors have scheduled events in the days leading up to and following their swearing-in. The practice has been to raise private donations to pay for the festivities.