Monday, May 24, 2010

Third Time's a Charm for Prettner Solon

(Image credit MPR/S. Hemphill)

Mark Dayton's selection of State Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon (DFL-Duluth) as a running mate, alongside Margaret Anderson Kelliher's tabbing of John Gunyou (Margaret Anderson Kelliher Democrat-Minnetonka) creates some interesting contrasts.

In announcing his pick, Dayton stated that Prettner Solon was "the only person I asked" to be Lieutenant Governor. That may be so, but Dayton is hardly Prettner Solon's first gubernatorial ball dance partner, having previously endorsed Tom Bakk and R.T. Rybak. I don't know exactly what to make of that. Her endorsement of Rybak before the DFL convention led to some idle speculation that she might be a good ticket balancer if he received the DFL endorsement. I suppose the same reasons make her a good partner for Dayton - providing regional and gender balance.

Dayton's choice of Prettner Solon has an impact on a few areas.

Regional Politics

Dayton's pick extends his inroads into CD8 on the heels of his recent endorsement by the United Steelworkers that was kind of a big deal. This is a classic regional balance choice, and so far no other campaign has a northern Minnesota presence on their ticket.

This will generate more of an advantage in the Duluth area than on the broader Iron Range, as a number of high-profile Range pols (Rukavina, Sertich, Anzelc, and Saxhaug) support Kelliher and can be expected to help her campaign in the region. In particular, Rukavina will have a bone to pick with her based on Prettner Solon's pre-convention comments that Rukavina didn't care about the needs of cities like Duluth. On the other hand, Duluth was not as Kelliher friendly, with R.T. Rybak receiving the endorsement of Prettner Solon, Mayor Don Ness, and a number of Duluth City Council members during the endorsement battle. Subsequently, Rybak beat Kelliher in Duluth in the caucus straw poll. Too often, people in the Twin Cities assume that the interests and politics of Duluth and the more rural Iron Range are identical, but they are not. However, both represent important voting blocs in the DFL primary, and Prettner Solon can help in Duluth.

Policy Focus

While Gunyou is a technocrat with strong budgetary expertise, initial news coverage of the Prettner Solon pick focused on her legislative expertise in health care and environmental issues. Doug Grow at MinnPost claimed that "[Prettner Solon's] work on energy issues in the state Senate should strength Dayton's already strong position with environmentalists." Hart Von Denburg at City Pages noted that Dayton "played up Solon's health care credentials" as a clinical psychologist as well as her legislative work on health care.

Demographic Politics

Continuing the trend of assigning additional responsibility to (prospective) LG's, Dayton announced that if elected, Prettner Solon would oversee the creation of a "Senior Citizens Service Center" in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor.

Dayton's appeal to seniors is not a recent one. As Senator, he worked on prescription drug re-importation legislation, and donated his Senate salary to fund Minnesota Senior Federation bus trips across the Canadian border. Since seniors are a reliable primary voter group, Dayton's dedication to their issues should pay dividends. Dayton had announced previously that he would put the LG office in charge of senior issues, and today's announcement fulfilled that promise.


Sen. Prettner Solon has been a reliable DFL vote in the legislature, not surprising considering that she occupies a rather safe seat in the DFL stronghold of Duluth. Her pick won't change anyone's opinion of Dayton's ideological leanings. The "Tax the Rich" mantra has stuck for Dayton, for good and for ill. If Kelliher's LG choice represents a clear decision to moderate, this is a "stay the course" pick for Dayton.

To use the 2008 Presidential run as an analogy of the type of pick each represents, Prettner Solon is Joe Biden and John Gunyou is Sarah Palin. Prettner Solon is a solid pick for LG, but a rather safe and traditional pick. In other words, it's the kind of pick that you make when you are the front runner. Prettner Solon is like Joe Biden - someone who can go to Scranton/Duluth and stump for votes in an important area (though hopefully with a better internal editor.) Gunyou is the kind of pick you make when you feel like you need to make up some ground by trying an approach that is a little outside of the box. (My apologies to John Gunyou for comparing him to Sarah Palin.)

Alright, it's a strained analogy, but you get my point.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz.

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