Tuesday, January 14, 2014

And you are.....????

Since I am a part-time media guy, perhaps I could have persuaded my employer, Salem Communications, to allow me to engage in a "man on the street" bit. What I was thinking is I could walk around both downtown St Paul (but only on the evenings of a Minnesota Wild home game when there are actually folks in the area) and downtown Minneapolis and ask one simple question: Who is the lieutenant governor of the state of Minnesota? I would venture a guess that less than half of the respondents would not even know such a position exists, much less who holds the office.

Alas, that bit can be declared over before it started now that the Minnesota Lt. Gov. has made some actual news.

Yvonne Prettner Solon made her biggest splash as Minnesota's lieutenant governor when she parachuted onto the Capitol lawn to show support for military families. But little else she did drew much attention, and Prettner Solon — who worried openly about being relevant when Mark Dayton asked her to run with him in 2010 — said Tuesday that one term was enough.

"I'm ready to move into the third phase of my life and take on new opportunities," Prettner Solon, a psychologist
(Wait! Now *that* could be relevant in the Dayton adminstration - ed.) , said as she recounted her journey from Duluth city politics to the lieutenant governor job.

Prettner Solon said she will finish the final year of this term. She said Dayton didn't ask her to stay, nor did he ask her to step aside. The governor was in Washington for a conference during Prettner Solon's announcement, but she said she wanted to deliver the news by herself anyway.

Her departure sets Dayton up for an interesting choice of a No. 2 as he seeks a second term, but it's probably not as critical a decision as four years ago. Back then, Prettner Solon brought northern Minnesota appeal to Dayton's campaign. This time around, Dayton doesn't have to worry about a primary challenge, where geographic diversity of his ticket would matter more.
If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would say this seems set up to have the silky smooth former mayor of Minneapolis, R.T. Rybak, appear on the ticket with Dayton this year. Given that Dayton has seemed so overwhelmed and/or distracted by the basics of the job (e.g. giving coherent speeches, reading legislation, being attentive in meetings), would he even be able to endure a second term should he be re-elected? Maybe not. So who would then step in to be governor if Dayton were to flame out? Why, the second in command of course, someone who could assume an executive role. But the more I think about, the more this theory seems far fetched. I have a hard time fathoming Rybak's massive ego allowing him to be second fiddle to someone like Dayton, even if the prospects appeared temporary.

The way I see it, the role of a Lt. Gov. candidate in a campaign isn't relevant unless there's a misstep (see: Dutcher, Judi). But another theory that has been bandied about is the recent history of male gubernatorial candidates selecting females as running mates for the purpose of mere window dressing. A female running mate shows a gov candidate's campaign is diverse while at the same time insisting that his running mate would be critical to his administration should he win (In fact, a woman has held the office of lieutenant governor since 1983). However, there is rarely (if ever) any substantive involvement when the office of lieutenant governor is assumed. Does that mean these male candidates are exhibiting some sort of misogynistic behavior, as some would imply? That seems to be a stretch. But do these males candidates view it as politically advantageous by having a female on the ticket? Hard not to.

I guess this could be a legitimate question posed to all the MN gubernatorial candidates in 2014: What do you foresee as the roles and responsibilities a lieutenant governor would assume in your administration? Given that the position is financed by the taxpayers of the state of Minnesota, I don't believe that inquiry is out of bounds.

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