Pawlenty takes oath for second termby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
Gov. Pawlenty is promising bipartisan cooperation as he begins his second term. The governor and the state's other statewide officeholders were sworn in Tuesday at a ceremony in downtown St. Paul.
Pawlenty's second term will be considerably different than his first. Both chambers of the Legislature are now controlled by Democrats.
St. Paul, Minn. — The 2007 inaugural event featured a traditional musical selection for such occasions but Gov. Pawlenty changed the tune from four years ago, starting with the scale of his ceremony. This year's inaugural events are far more understated than his first inaugural four years ago, when the celebration lasted several days. This year, the inauguration was only a one-day affair.
Pawlenty took part in a morning prayer service and then took the oath of office at the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul in a joint ceremony with the state's other constitutional officers.
Pawlenty stood on a stage that featured a military band, red velvet sashes, decorative ferns and a large state seal.
The political makeup of the constitutional offices is also much different than four years ago, when only one Democrat held a statewide office. This year, Pawlenty and Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau shared the stage with three DFLers, Attorney General Lori Swanson, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and State Auditor Rebecca Otto.
The different political landscape may be one reason why Pawlenty focused a large portion of his speech on the need for the two parties to work together.
"We don't live in a time or a place where the voters have given one political party total control," he said. "The people of Minnesota have given us shared government and we need to make it work."
Pawlenty narrowly won his re-election bid in November over DFLer Mike Hatch. His victory was the only bright spot for the GOP. Republicans lost two statewide offices, control of the Minnesota House, and several seats in the Senate.
Pawlenty heads into his second term with the DFL holding commanding majorities in both chambers. Pawlenty vowed to work with his political adversaries, telling them they should focus on making the state better, regardless of political party.
Pawlenty's speech didn't offer any new proposals, but he did highlight two of his current initiatives. He said the state should work to embrace renewable energy and improve Minnesota's education system, particularly the high school curriculum.
And while Pawlenty vowed to work with Democrats on areas of common agreement, he cautioned them to not settle in the middle out of political expedience.
"The people we serve deserve and desire more than just a lukewarm result," he said, "one that splits the difference between liberals and conservatives and inevitably results in a least common denominator agenda. We can do much better than that."
The last four years have been a rocky stretch for Gov. Pawlenty and state lawmakers. There was a massive $4.5 billion budget deficit and partisan gridlock that caused the state's first-ever partial government shutdown.
Democrats in the Legislature say they're pleased to see Pawlenty call for bipartisan cooperation.
"There's a good history of prairie populism in our state, and if the governor wants to take that on, I'm very interested in that," said House Speaker-designate Margaret Kelliher of Minneapolis.
Kelliher said voters have sent a clear message that they want to see lawmakers get things done in the upcoming session.
"This is a reality that we find ourselves in. We've known for a while that the state was closely divided. I think it has played itself out in having a Democratic Senate, a Democratic House and a Republican governor, and I think that it's the reality of where we are," said Kelliher. "I think what we have to do is keep at the heart of the work, the work for Minnesotans. If we do that, we'll do a good job."
Kelliher says her caucus will focus on the bread-and-butter issues that helped Democrats win control of the House for the first time in eight years. She says they'll work to keep property taxes low, focus on improving the state's schools and try to make health care affordable.
Democrats in the Senate held a news conference highlighting similar goals without offering many specifics.
Republican House Minority Leader Marty Seifert says he also expects greater cooperation this session. But he warned that his caucus won't roll over on key conservative principles, and will stand with the governor when necessary.
"The conservatives don't have anywhere really to go. So if the Legislature veers too far to the left, we'll have the veto backstop and I think that's what you'll see, you'll see folks working together. But if it looks like the Legislature is out of control for some reason, and if you need an adult in the room and the veto to come out, hopefully it won't come to that, but we'll be there to help," Seifert said.
Even if Pawlenty does veto some measures, the DFL majorities are large, and would require only a few Republicans crossing over to override a veto.
Pawlenty was the only constitutional officeholder to speak at the hour-long inaugural event at the Fitzgerald Theater. The limited seating prompted Attorney General Lori Swanson and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie to schedule separate ceremonies for their own speeches.
Swanson's ceremony was held Tuesday morning inside the Capitol. Several hundred supporters, friends and family attended, including former Attorney General Mike Hatch and former Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz.
Swanson said she'll continue Hatch's legacy of standing up for all Minnesotans.
"An attorney general should put the public interest above all else," she said. "I want to be that kind of attorney general. An attorney general should help everyday people get a fair shake when the deck is stacked against them by those who hold the cards and I want to be that kind of attorney general."
Pawlenty and lawmakers will begin the real work on Wednesday when the Legislature begins its 2007 session at noon.
- All Things Considered, 01/02/2007, 5:19 p.m.