Emmer prepares to call it quits
ST. PAUL -- Tom Emmer apparently is leaving the Minnesota governor's race at his home, an appropriate ending to a campaign in which he discussed his wife and seven children more than any other topic.
Numerous reports indicate that what his campaign calls a "major announcement" this morning will be the Delano Republican conceding to Mark Dayton, opening the door for a Democrat to become the first Minnesota governor since Rudy Perpich left office 20 years ago.
With Dayton leading the race by 8,720 votes following a statewide hand recount, Emmer already knew he could not win that way. But on Tuesday it became apparent he would have a difficult time winning an election lawsuit after the Minnesota Supreme Court released the reasoning behind a November ruling that went against Emmer. It all but eliminated grounds for an Emmer court challenge.
The 63-year-old Dayton quietly has worked on building an administration since just after the Nov. 2 election. His transition team, with a hand-lettered sign on the door to its East St. Paul office, has been funded privately. With an Emmer concession, state funds and office space should be available.
Even though Republicans took control of the Minnesota House and Senate, putting a liberal in the governor's office thrills Democratic-Farmer-Laborites.
One DFL loyalist Tweeted early today: "I was 9 years old the last time there was a DFL governor in office. Can't wait till 1/3/2011!"
Dayton will be sworn in Jan. 3, a day before legislators return to the Capitol to deal with a $6.2 billion budget deficit.
The department store heir, who was U.S. senator and served in several state government positions, downplayed his lead after the election and during the recount. However, he has said that he needs to begin making progress quickly to be ready to take office and the recount has diverted his attention and resources away from that job.
Emmer, 49, has been a vocal proponent of a smaller government, both in Minnesota House speeches and on the campaign trail. He won the endorsement of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the support of many in the Tea Party movement.
He came out of nowhere to run for office after Gov. Tim Pawlenty last year announced he would not seek a third term. Emmer began his campaign with staff members with little or no statewide campaign experience.
After he became embroiled in a controversy about taxing tips -- he said waiters can earn more than $100,000 -- he met with high-level Republicans who advised him to change course. Soon, veteran GOP operatives were at the top of his campaign structure and his rhetoric toned down.
While since the summer he did not sound as gruff and unwilling to compromise as he often did during House debate, he also would not change entirely and did not understand why everyone was not as upfront about their feelings as he is.
"You treat everybody with the same respect, but at the same time you don't change who you are," Emmer said during the campaign. "I just expected everyone to handle things like I do."
Emmer, a lawyer, did not blindly follow the Republican Party. For instance, he seldom attended Republican House caucus meetings, where most members decided what they would do before a vote on big issues.
Dayton brought his well-known name, years of public service and lots of money to the race. From early on, he predicted a tight contest.
He also brought a liberal bent, giving voters perhaps their most distinct choice ever, between his left-wing and Emmer's right-wing philosophies.
Dayton is known as shy and introverted. He often appears happier standing in the back of a room than in front of a crowd.
He said he is least comfortable with "30-second cocktail party chit-chat."
However, at times during the campaign Dayton delivered speeches that could rival those of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, known for his fiery and passionate delivery.
"I'm probably more comfortable in my skin at 63 than I was at 35," Dayton said.
Dayton has battled problems, including alcoholism and depression. He said both are under control.
In recent weeks, he has been more available to the media than Emmer, but avoided the spotlight as he said the recount process should play out.
On a recent trip to the Democratic National Governor's association meeting, he insisted that even that partisan organization not call him "governor-elect."
Dayton, who last week said he has given little thought to an inauguration, faces what may be the most serious problem of any Minnesota governor in the massive deficit. And he faces it with Republicans who do not agree with him in control of the Legislature.
Raising taxes on the rich was Dayton's No. 1 plan to balance the budget, along with cuts and other measures. But a Revenue Department study showed he would not get as much money as he wanted.
While Emmer has been a party outsider, and seldom involved in statewide GOP events until his campaign, Dayton has not always been a DFL leadership favorite, either.
At the April state convention in Duluth, party leadership banned him from the convention floor because he planned to take the race to the primary election, skipping the traditional endorsement process by party delegates.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co., the parent company of the Woodbury Bulletin.