Governor-elect Pawlenty meets with Ventura

Libby George

It was a busy day for Republican Governor-elect Tim Pawlenty.

After decisively winning the gubernatorial race with 45 percent of the vote, Pawlenty began Wednesday with a joint news conference with Gov. Jesse Ventura.

While the two began by exchanging friendly banter, Ventura did not hesitate to grill Pawlenty about his campaign promise to balance Minnesota’s budget – with a deficit as high as $3 billion – without raising taxes.

“I would like to say that in going back to the private sector, I wish him all the success in the world not to raise taxes one nickel, and I say that seriously,” Ventura said, adding that he did not raise taxes during his four-year term. Ventura said another four years without an increase would “take me to my retirement.”

During the campaign, Ventura was critical of all major party gubernatorial candidates for not being specific in how they would deal with the deficit.

Pawlenty took Ventura’s criticism in stride Wednesday morning.

“Can we make Minnesota live within its revenue streams?” he said. “I believe we can.”

Pawlenty, a state legislator since 1992, will become the first governor in 12 years to have significant support in the state Legislature.

The Republicans won 82 seats in the House – a 30-vote advantage in the 134-member chamber – after going into the election with a 71-63 majority.

In the state Senate, the Republican Party gained four seats, reducing the Democratic majority to 35-31, with one Independence Party member.

This will help Pawlenty push his initiatives in the Legislature, which in addition to balancing the budget, include moving teacher pay to a performance-based system, improving state roads and bridges and making it state law for women to wait 24 hours before getting an abortion.

Family support

later in the afternoon, Pawlenty held a press conference to introduce his wife Mary, who, as a district court judge in Dakota County, was unable to campaign or participate in any party-affiliated activities.

“I was proud of him,” Mary Pawlenty said. “That’s not a political endorsement.”

She added her position as a district court judge reflects the changing role of women.

“I think (my job) is a reflection of the changing times and a reality of working mothers in Minnesota,” she said.

Mary Pawlenty added that while she is unsure of how she will use her position as first lady, “it’s not only an opportunity, it’s an obligation to use that well for the state of Minnesota.”

Pawlenty and his wife said they do not plan to take permanent residence in the governor’s mansion because they must maintain residence in Mary’s judicial district. They said they will, however, use the residence for state functions.


The Associated Press contributed to this report

Libby George covers national politics and welcomes comments at [email protected]