ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Gov.-elect Tim Walz did not attend a meeting between a bipartisan group of new governors and President Donald Trump in Washington Thursday, drawing some criticism from Republicans.
The six-term Democratic congressman stayed in Minnesota this week to meet with transition staff and advisers, even as newly-elected Democratic counterparts from Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan visited the White House.
Walz has criticized Trump's handling of veterans issues, but spokeswoman Kayla Castaneda said political disagreements had nothing to do with Walz not making the trip.
"He's not going because he's in Minnesota conducting interviews and doing transition business," she said. "He's busy building the executive branch."
The work includes vetting at least 1,500 applicants for appointed positions in state government, including 500 applicants for 23 state commissioner posts.
Trump invited governors-elect to meet with him and members of his Cabinet to discuss workforce development, infrastructure, the opioid crisis and other topics. Thirteen newly elected governors attended Thursday's meeting, including Tony Evers, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Kristi Noem, a South Dakota Republican.
Republican leaders in the Minnesota House criticized Walz for skipping the meeting.
"Minnesota needs a strong relationship with our partners at the federal level — including President Donald Trump," said Rep. Anne Neu, a Republican from North Branch and the incoming deputy House Republican leader. She said she hoped Walz would make it a priority to meet with Trump in the near future "and work to build a productive working relationship with the White House."
Kansas' incoming Democratic governor, Laura Kelly, also opted out of the White House meeting. Her staff said she stayed in Topeka to work on the state budget and her transition into office. The Kansas City Star reported .
Powered by surging turnout in Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs, Minnesota Democrats held on to the governor's office and unexpectedly swept back into power in the state House during the November election. Republicans retain a one-seat majority in the state Senate.