Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Thursday named Minnesota Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach as his running mate, tapping a longtime veteran of the Legislature as he tries to mount a comeback bid.
Fischbach serves as DFL Gov. Mark Dayton’s number two after a series of job shifts by prominent Minnesota politicians landed her in the slot. In joining Pawlenty’s ticket, she’s getting the opportunity to occupy it for four more years.
Pawlenty said she is ready to be governor: “One of the most important traits of a lieutenant governor is making sure that person has the background, judgment and experience to step in and be governor of the state of Minnesota,” Pawlenty said at a Capitol news conference. “And the announcement that we’re making today that Michelle Fischbach is part of the ticket not only meets that standard, but meets it by leaps and bounds.”
Fischbach repeated the themes Pawlenty has been talking about since he entered the race for his old job in April. “Together, we will focus on putting hardworking middle-income Minnesotans first,” Fischbach said. “Our efforts will include slowing down health care premiums, preparing Minnesotans for the workplace of the future, and making sure government is held accountable.”
Pawlenty referred to the unfinished business at the Legislature, where lawmakers and Dayton ended the recent legislative session without agreement on big issues like taxes and spending, elder care abuse and the opioid epidemic.
“One of the things Michelle Fischbach and I can bring to these debates is experience, a strength, a boldness where we’re going to be able to tackle some of these things and actually get them done,” he said. “Those unfinished items will get done and in a way that will serve the people of Minnesota well.”
Fischbach came to be lieutenant governor when U.S. Sen. Al Franken resigned and Gov. Mark Dayton appointed his then-Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to Franken’s seat. As president of the state Senate, Fischbach was automatically elevated to lieutenant governor, as prescribed in the state Constitution.
Before becoming lieutenant governor, Fischbach served since 1996 as a Republican state senator from Paynesville. She earned a law degree in 2010.
Her husband is Scott Fischbach, longtime executive director of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the state’s leading abortion opposition group.
Pawlenty is not competing for the GOP endorsement at the party’s state convention in Duluth this weekend. He and Fischbach will run against the endorsed GOP candidate in the August primary.
DFL Chairman Ken Martin issued a blistering statement: “By selecting Fischbach as his running mate, Pawlenty is abandoning any pretense of being a moderate. Fischbach represents an element of the Republican Party far out of touch with everyday Minnesotans,” the statement read. “She has led Republican attempts to ban marriage equality, restrict health care choices for women, and even helped her new running mate strip our schools of critical funding.”