While it is true that the next election for Governor will not be until 2018 I have a prediction that Minnesota will have a new Governor before then – and that new Governor will be a woman.
And I believe her name will be Tina Smith.
The ascension of Tina Smith from Governor Mark Dayton’s Chief of Staff to his Lt. Governor running mate in February of 2014 after the decision by his then Lt. Governor, Yvonne Prettner solon, to step down was a smart political move by Dayton.
Long a fixture in Minnesota DFL politics, Smith served as Chief of Staff to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, as well as his campaign manager for his failed effort for Governor.
And, as several publications have mentioned, she is a close friend of Alida Messinger, Dayton’s former wife – as well as one of the most significant donors to Dayton’s campaigns and other prominent DFL causes.
As I have watched the interaction between Dayton and Smith – and more importantly, the increasingly public and prominent role she has played in virtually every aspect of his Administration since becoming Lt. Governor, it is apparent that she is not filling what many have considered the traditional role of Lt. Governor.
She is a very public spokesperson for the Administration. She is front and center at every major media event involving the Administration.
I appreciate the fact that her role is not ceremonial. I have long felt that a Lt. Governor should be someone with substance – and someone who is capable of becoming Governor in the event the current Governor exits by choice or by chance.
Tina Smith meets and exceeds those expectations.
In this case, I believe the current Governor intends to exit by choice.
I don’t have any particular insight into this Governor or those around him. I lack any sources beyond seeing the same news coverage the vast majority of Minnesotans are watching and reading every day.
I wasn’t shocked when then U.S. Senator Mark Dayton decided not to seek re-election.
He wasn’t having fun. The thought of a tough re-election campaign wasn’t in his DNA. And, frankly, I think he felt it wasn’t the right role for him to play in Washington, D.C.
When he declared his candidacy for Governor the same cynics and critics who derided his chances of becoming a U.S. Senator mocked his chances to become Governor.
Mark Dayton’s political career has been successful in large part because people have underestimated him.
He’s a known Minnesota political quantity. While you may not know what he is going to do all the time you know that not knowing what he is going to do is part of what you get with Mark Dayton.
What a great political asset!
Keeping your friends and allies – and your enemies – off-guard and unable to know where exactly you are going to be on any single issue on any given day.
Much like Paul Wellstone, Mark Dayton is someone that Republicans may not agree with politically but have long respected his passion for public service. Democrats generally have loved him.
Mark Dayton has never been anything but a Minnesotan. You can disagree with his politics but you can’t question his love for this state.
Mark Dayton is also mindful of his place in history.
He knows that Minnesota has never had a female Governor.
He knows that the United States has never had a female President.
He can do his part to remedy one directly and impact another indirectly.
I believe Mark Dayton will step down sometime this summer, and by fall at the latest, declaring that he believes he has done all he can as Minnesota’s Governor.
Whether you agree with the value of his accomplishments or not he will point to many that he believes have prepared Minnesota for the future.
I think Mark Dayton is done being Governor.
I don’t think he’s bored or done with public service but I think he has restored his standing with Minnesotans since his days as a United States Senator and I believe he believes he has done most of what he set out to accomplish as Governor.
Now he gets to make history.
As he exits by choice he will have someone replacing him who is smart, savvy and no slouch when it comes to electoral politics.
She will be well prepared to govern — and campaign — in her own right.
She will become Minnesota’s next Governor. Minnesota’s first female Governor.
And, an awfully tough opponent for Democrats and Republicans in 2018.