Three stations are competing for the governor's show, expected to be on the air next month. DFLers will be listening.
After a five-month campaign hiatus, reelected Gov. Tim Pawlenty plans to resume hosting his weekly radio show next month -- with three stations in the running.
Bowing to political fairness concerns, the Republican governor signed off from his "Good Morning, Minnesota" show on WCCO Radio (830 AM) at the end of June. Mayors R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis and Chris Coleman of St. Paul -- both DFLers -- took over the time slot in July through the November election.
For four years, WCCO was home to the governor's program, a topical mixture of entertainment, politics and Pawlenty's brand of humor. The station is now one of three vying for the right to air his show; the others are KTLK (100.3 FM), which airs talk shows and Minnesota Vikings games, and WWTC (1280 AM), the Patriot. Pawlenty's office expects to award the two-year contract by next week; he could be on the air the first week of January.
"Certainly, the governor really enjoyed being on WCCO, had a great working relationship with WCCO," Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said. But he added that because it's a state contract, "we have to be fair in this process."
A station isn't paid for the broadcasts. Pawlenty's show averaged nearly 100,000 listeners a week on WCCO, said Alex Carey, a Pawlenty spokesman who produces the show.
Earlier this year, DFLers claimed that the show constituted an illegal contribution worth as much as $600,000 a year to Pawlenty's campaign. The state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board rejected that charge.
But given the governor's rising political profile -- he's been closely allied with likely presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. -- DFL officials say they intend to monitor the show closely.
"If Tim Pawlenty is turning his radio show into a platform for a candidate for president of the United States, then the Federal Election Commission, I think, is going to get interested in his show real quick," said DFL Party Chair Brian Melendez. "It would be nice if whatever radio station ends up carrying his program would have the journalistic integrity to offer time to the opposition."
Carey said the show is issue-oriented but not political.
"The governor does the show to connect with Minnesotans about what is important in Minnesota," Carey said.