Minnesota’s governor and lieutenant governor have a silent — and possibly temporary — partnership, they said on Tuesday.
Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon stated flatly that she and Gov. Mark Dayton, “don’t talk very often.” Asked about his second-in-command, Dayton responded Tuesday with a cool, “I’m not going to comment on our relationship.”
And both DFLers, who rode a joint ticket to victory in 2010, left open the idea that Prettner Solon may not share the ticket when Dayton runs for re-election next year. Dayton said Tuesday that Prettner Solon alone would decide whether to stick with him.
“We agreed we’d talk about it at the end of the year, so I didn’t pursue that question,” Dayton said.
The two leaders’ public airing of their doubts about their future together is a marked change from recent years when such matters were kept under wraps. But with questions rising about whether the ticket will remain intact, Prettner Solon is speaking bluntly.
She made clear on Tuesday that she and the governor do not discuss major issues such as restrictions on citizens’ bringing guns to the State Capitol. On the day Prettner Solon, who favors some restrictions, convened a hearing on the matter, Dayton told reporters at a separate event that he opposed such restrictions.
“The governor and I each have very busy schedules,” Prettner Solon. “It’s not always easy to accommodate meetings between us.”
Dayton said he and she discussed re-election about two weeks ago and agreed to revisit the issue at the end of the year. “It’s her decision to make,” Dayton said.
Prettner Solon said she will finish out this term, but when asked about a second said “I don’t have to make a decision at this time.” She said she will “just look and see” whether the benefits of a second term outweighed other options.
A former state senator, Prettner Solon was considered a political catch back in 2010 when she agreed to join Dayton’s campaign. She was respected for her work at the Capitol and her golden name in northern Minnesota.
Prettner Solon won a special election in 2001, following the death of her husband, legendary lawmaker Sam Solon, who was elected in 1972 and died in office.
“There is no doubt that Yvonne Prettner Solon helped Mark Dayton become governor. She was vitally important in the primary,” said Ken Martin, DFL Party chair. Dayton won a three-way 2010 primary, picking up 56 percent of the vote in the DFL-vote rich Eighth Congressional District, where Prettner Solon makes her home.
Although she ended up on the Dayton ticket, he was not her first pick for governor. She had supported Sen. Tom Bakk’s gubernatorial run initially, then switched to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. Only once both of them were out of the race did she sign on with Dayton.
Like previous gubernatorial candidates, Dayton said at the time that his lieutenant governor would have an active role in his administration. Prettner Solon’s open comments about her rare talks with the governor make clear she has not had his ear.
Prettner Solon chairs a Capitol security advisory committee, occasionally holds office hours in Duluth and has worked to create a clearinghouse for senior citizens to access state government. On Tuesday, after Solon’s and Dayton’s comments, the governor’s office announced that she had been appointed to co-chair an energy committee at the National Lieutenant Governors Association. Her appointment was official on Aug. 14.
Constitutionally, the lieutenant governor’s only function is to be ready to step in for the governor, should the need arise.
Martin said whoever is in the No. 2 spot on the ticket, “The election next year is really going to come down to Governor Dayton.”
Staff writer Jennifer Brooks contributed to this report
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger Twitter: @RachelSB