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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Emmer looks at vote different than party

ST. PAUL -- Tom Emmer made it clear in his first post-election newspaper interview that his job is different than that of the Republican Party chairman.

While Chairman Tony Sutton has delivered impassioned arguments about how bad the Nov. 2 election was conducted, Emmer took a step back. He said Sutton had to do his thing, but the candidate himself said that his job is to be satisfied that all the votes were counted that should have been counted. He is doing that with less emotion than Sutton, much less.

That is to be expected from Emmer, who is one of the least political candidates a major party has put in front of voters recently. He supports conservative ideologies, but not so much politics.

Emmer never has been what can be called a party activist and upon questioning him it becomes obvious that he has not closely followed many political stories.

Sutton frequently goes after Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, for what the GOP leader calls incompetence. Emmer claims Ritchie to be a friend and had not publically criticized him.

However, Emmer admitted in the interview that he was not happy with Ritchie after the election.

"I was, frankly, more than disappointed," Emmer said about Ritchie Tweets that seemed to indicate the governor's contest was over. "He is supposed to make sure the process is fair."

Ritchie's office said that the secretary will not respond to political attacks.

Pain in neck

Republicans may think Mark Dayton will be a pain in the neck if he becomes Minnesota governor, but he has a real pain in the neck.

Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci confirmed that the Democratic-Farmer-Laborite governor hopeful underwent "minor, outpatient, surgery on his neck last week -- a 'decompression' he called it."

His recovery is going well, Tinucci said, and he was back at work the day after surgery. He did take some time off last weekend, the first significant time off in months.

"It certainly has not affected his work on the transition team," Tinucci said of the neck issue.

However, Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said that Dayton canceled an appointment because of the neck pain. Bakk, the Senate minority leader-elect, has not met with Dayton since the election but expects to soon.

Turkey Saturday

Gov. Tim Pawlenty was too busy to stare eye to eye at a turkey during a weekday, so his traditional pre-Thanksgiving turkey industry promotion fell on Saturday this year.

The governor was in San Diego, Calif., this past week and plans a vacation Thanksgiving week, leaving Saturday as the only time when he could meet the turkey (Minnesota is the country's No. 1 turkey producer). He normally holds the meeting on a weekday, which would provide greater media coverage.

Early in his eight-year tenure, Pawlenty picked up the turkey to give photographers their money shot. But in the last couple of years, when he has been thinking about running for president, he has stood back and let others deal with flying feathers.

Cravaack thumbs-down

Chip Cravaack had not even arrived in Washington when a Washington Post blogger predicted that he will have the most difficult time of any new House Republican winning re-election in 2012.

Chris Cillizza answered a reader's question about which of the newly elected GOP congressmen was most endangered. He said it could be the northeast Minnesota 8th Congressional District's new lawmaker.

Cravaack upset long-time U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, a Democrat who controlled the powerful transportation committee.

Just after the Cillizza piece ran, Cravaack began his orientation in Washington.

Roads safer

The Emergency Nurses Association says Minnesota leads in making its roads safer.

North Dakota is the only state to have made no progress in improving highway safety in the past couple of years, the nurses reported. Iowa was barely ahead of North Dakota while Wisconsin was just behind Minnesota in making good progress.

The national group looked at 14 types of laws being passed, including cracking down on distracted driving. Other criteria the nurses used included seat belt use, child passenger safety, graduated driver licensing for teens, all-rider motorcycle helmet requirements and ignition interlock devices to prevent drunk driving. Minnesota has made progress in most of those areas.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.