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Gov. Pawlenty is a world of difference

Gov. Tim Pawlenty sat in a golden chair, wanting to talk.

He didn't bother with the power position his predecessor used by sitting behind a desk. The setting was open, much like the governor himself, with nothing between him and the interviewer.

What a difference between former-Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura and Pawlenty. While Ventura took time to chat with reporters, he seldom seemed interested.

Ventura did not have in-depth knowledge about any issue. He could not answer anything deeper than a superficial question. It is hard to stump Pawlenty, who staff members say has a mind like a steel trap.

Another difference is Pawlenty emphasizes others; for Ventura, it all seemed to be about him.

Real emotion came out of Pawlenty during the recent interview, especially in talking about his deep-held views of local government aid.

When the half-hour allotted for the interview expired, Pawlenty wasn't ready to stop. Chief of Staff Charlie Weaver had to pull him away for his next appointment. With Ventura, it sometimes seemed he could not wait to move on to something else.

The local government aid interview was a good example of the type of person Minnesotans elected governor.

Pawlenty, with a decade of legislative experience behind him, needed no notes or help. Ventura usually didn't use notes, either, but his press secretary often stepped in to answer questions that left Ventura stumped.

The Republican governor delivers a solid answer to nearly every question. That includes local government aid, something that as a suburban resident, and former Eagan City Council member, he seldom dealt with before becoming legislator.

LGA has become one of his most controversial issues. He knows his stuff, even if most rural lawmakers and city officials disagree with him.

Local government aid is that program designed to help cities with low property value that cannot support basic services without state help. Rich suburbs such as his pay for the program, Pawlenty said.

Although Republicans rely on a suburban voter base, the party needs rural support, too. That may cause some to question the political wisdom of taking a suburb-friendly position. But it doesn't affect Pawlenty, whose view obviously comes from his heart, his suburban heart.

It's government officials who are stirring up the LGA controversy, Pawlenty said.

When he talks to regular Minnesotans, the governor added, "what I hear about is jobs."

That is why Pawlenty has emphasized his partial tax-free zone proposal for rural Minnesota nearly to the exclusion of any other rural program.

"The next generation of (rural) people isn't going to stay if they don't have a shot at a reasonable-paying job," Pawlenty said.

It's obvious Pawlenty sides with the suburbs, but that has not hurt his acceptance in rural Minnesota. Unlike Ventura, Pawlenty knows how to deal with people. While Ventura appealed to a small band of supporters, Pawlenty appeals to a much wider audience, at least on the personal level.

As Pawlenty worked to wrap up the legislative session, he used his personality to bring legislative Democrats and Republicans together. Even Democrats praised him for reaching out.

Ventura, in the same situation, said a session-ending deal was not his problem. His only job, in his mind, was to decide whether to sign or veto whatever lawmakers approved.

Pawlenty has a much different view of the governor's position. Regardless of one's political stance, that, at least, is refreshing.

Davis, a Woodbury resident, covers Minnesota government and politics for the Bulletin and other Rivertown Newspapers. Davis can be reached at

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.