Thanks to a very close gubernatorial election in Minnesota that triggered an automatic recount, there’s a slight chance that Gov. Tim Pawlenty may remain in office briefly past his planned term end on January 3. That’s a prospect that has some concerned that, armed with a Republican state senate and House, Pawlenty will choose to enact new legislation. Consider how the New York Times framed the story:
With the state’s Legislature soon to be in Republican control and headed back into session on Jan. 4, Mr. Pawlenty could theoretically be sitting in the governor’s chair, ready to sign into law some legislation that conservative primary voters might find appealing.
Such a move would generate controversy – and much-needed national news media attention – since it would amount to a lame-duck Republican governor pushing a conservative agenda with the possibility of a Democratic governor waiting in the wings. That could be just the kind of story that Mr. Pawlenty needs to bolster his credentials with Tea Party supporters.
Since Democrat Mark Dayton leads Republican Tom Emmer by about 8,700 votes, it’s likely he’ll end up winning the election. The official recount should be finished in early December, which means that, barring legal challenges from either side, the winner of the recount could be sworn-in on schedule. Emmer said in a radio interview last week that he had no intention of unnecessarily stalling the process to allow Pawlenty to remain in office longer, calling such a tactic “entirely improper.” At the same time, Emmer did not waive his right to a recount, an indication that he’s prepared to wage a legal battle if the recount unearths voting irregularities.
Asked if Pawlenty had any plans about what he would do if he remained in office, Pawlenty spokesman Bruce Gordon referred NRO to this statement issued by the governor the day after the election: “My administration is fully committed and prepared to accomplish the swift and orderly transition to the next governor as soon as a final determination is made. As required by Article V of the Minnesota Constitution, I will continue to serve as Governor until a new governor takes the oath.”
House Speaker-designate Kurt Zellers, a Republican, said in a statement released last week that the House would not “rush to ram something through right out of the gate just to try to beat the system.”
“But we do have a job to do regardless of who sits in the governor’s office,” he added. “We will get to work on day one to reform government and bring jobs back to Minnesota. We will work with whomever is governor in order to get our work done by the constitutional end date of May 23. It would be irresponsible to the people who pay the bills to not get our budget done on time while they have to.”
A key decision is scheduled for mid-January. In a deal made last May with state Democrats, Pawlenty rejected $1.4 billion in federal funds for Medicaid, but agreed that the next governor could make the final determination about whether to accept the funds or not. The deadline for that decision is January 15.