Gov. Dayton spent the first day of the State Fair talking with constituents, eating a chocolate malt and taking the political temperature of Fair goers.
"I got to see real Minnesotans," Dayton told reporters. "We're all Minnesotans out here at the Fair."
Today was Dayton's first visit to the State Fair as governor. Most people just wanted to shake Dayton's hand. A few asked for pictures. There were several who thanked him for his stance on the state government shutdown.
"I want to thank you for being the adult in the room," Ray Hess told Dayton. "You had a long, hard Spring this year."
State government shut down for three weeks after Dayton and GOP legislative leaders failed to reach a budget deal. The two sides disagreed over the best way to erase a $5 billion projected budget deficit. Dayton eventually dropped his proposal to raise taxes in order to end the shutdown. Dayton, however, is criticizing his GOP counterparts for refusing to look at new tax revenue to erase part of the deficit.
Hess, who said he's a Democrat, said he wished more Democrats and Republicans would learn how to cooperate in the Legislature. He wasn't the only one. Several thanked Dayton for "ending the shutdown." Others praised Dayton for protecting services for the disabled, K12 schools and state subsidized health insurance.
Dayton said he expected to get both positive and negative feedback at the State Fair. He also used a line that may become a key talking point as the 2012 elections approach.
"In 36 years of this line of work, I've never dealt with people who thought compromise is a weakness and intransigence is a virtue," Dayton said to one state worker.
Other fair goers lobbied Dayton on the new Vikings stadium. Several told Dayton that it was important to keep the Vikings in Minnesota.
"In order to be a first class state like we are, we need to have all of the major sports here," Cliff Berg said. Berg encouraged Dayton to cut a deal with the Vikings to get the stadium built. The Vikings and Ramsey County have reached a deal to build a new stadium in Arden Hills but Dayton and state lawmakers are waiting for the financing plan to come together. Dayton told reporters he's waiting until he gets a review from the Met Council and the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission to see if the plan is viable.
"We need the financing to be agreed upon and I insist that the state's part of it be assured in terms of the revenue stream that's not there yet," Dayton said. "There's a lot more planning to do to make it a true people's stadium and if it comes together and is timely and we think there's support in the Legislature. But I can't ask anybody to support it until we know what it is, including myself."
But Jan Nye of Minneapolis says she told Dayton that she didn't want any public money going to the stadium.
"It's a private business and I don't think we should be paying for billionaire's stadiums any more. We can't really afford it," she said.
Those collecting unscientific ballots at the House and Senate booths said turnout was brisk. They said a few people asked questions about the shutdown but those staffing the booths say there wasn't much criticism directed at lawmakers.
"I think they're being polite," Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, said. "They didn't come to the Fair to argue."
It's difficult to gauge at the State Fair whether public frustration is being directed at one political party. Part of that may be because those who oppose a politician's views are less likely to seek him out.
But it was clear that few people took the time to criticize Dayton during the time reporters were tracking him. One person yelled "Thanks for the shutdown" as he hustled past Dayton. In fact, Dayton got the most grief was when he appeared live on WCCO-TV.
"Where are the jobs, governor?" Davis continued.
As Davis criticized Dayton his co-host, Tom Emmer laughed (Side Note: KTLK is selling T-shirts that say "Don't Blame Me, I vote for Emmer"). Dayton defeated Emmer, a Republican, in the 2010 election.
WCCO staff apologized to Dayton after the broadcast saying they were shocked by Davis' actions. Dayton joked that he thought the shouting was from WCCO political reporter Pat Kessler.
"It's Déjà Vu all over again," Dayton said when he was told Emmer was sitting in the KTLK booth.
Dayton said he expects to spend a few more days at the Fair.