In “Dayton’s legacy: Bigger budget, surpluses” (June 11), the Star Tribune wrote about the record of Gov. Mark Dayton’s policies, what he has accomplished and gotten enacted during his tenure.

However, I want to focus on what did not happen during his tenure.

What needs to be remembered is that Dayton was elected in 2010 by just 8,770 votes, as Republicans won control of the Legislature in both the House and Senate. It also needs to be remembered that Dayton’s GOP opponent then was a firebrand conservative, Tom Emmer, who was riding a wave of Tea Party activism. Emmer now serves in Congress. What’s more, recall that there was a substantial third-party candidate in Tom Horner, who took nearly 12 percent of the vote. No one knows who would have won if Horner hadn’t been in the race.

What might have happened had Emmer won along with a Republican majority?

Essentially, what we saw in states where Republicans took control in 2010 or later could have happened here — such as anti-union laws, including right-to-work laws, massive tax reductions, major budget cuts, stand-your-ground (“shoot first”) laws, voter ID, vouchers for private schools and political gestures to spite then-President Barack Obama.

In Kansas, they went so low in spending on public education that the state Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. Kansas had no choice but to raise the income tax as the Legislature overrode GOP Gov. Sam Brownback.

Fiscal trouble has plagued Wisconsin, too, which had a small surplus of $22 million this year. Yet the state has a $1 billion transit deficit, and Republican Gov. Scott Walker wanted to spend $700 million on public education but has no money to do it. In previous years, Wisconsin Republicans made billions in cuts in public programs.

In their years of chronic shortfalls and deficits, Kansas and Wisconsin have been unlike Minnesota under Dayton.

And there’s more. Emmer had a history of voting against stadiums like Target Field, so it could have been likely that the Minnesota Vikings would have moved somewhere else. Emmer also is a social conservative, so we could have seen something similar to, say, the North Carolina bathroom law that would have caused a major uproar. And there might have been Republican redistricting bills like North Carolina’s and Wisconsin’s, which have been called extremely partisan and unconstitutional.

In short, Dayton’s legacy is about keeping the state out of the same problems that now plague other states. Minnesotans need to remember that in next year’s election, since Dayton is retiring.

It’s especially food for thought for independent voters who went third party in the past or are thinking about it in the future. The state’s fate could hinge on the governor’s race. Some might want to push for the type of revolution as in France under independent centrist Emmanuel Macron. But the rise of the evangelical Christian movement in Minnesota makes that difficult, I feel, by causing many voters to vote on social wedge issues only. And because many third parties and candidates like Horner align with DFLers on these issues, they are more likely to siphon off votes from DFL candidates than from Republicans. Also, France has a runoff system where two candidates are alone on the final ballot.

In 2010, Emmer won in places where no other Republican running for statewide or legislative office won, as Horner’s percentage seemed to make a dent in Dayton’s numbers.

Dayton’s legacy of what never became law here, but could have, must continue in 2018 and beyond.


William Cory Labovitch, of South St. Paul, is a political activist.