Minnesota Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon confirmed Tuesday she won't join Gov. Mark Dayton in his campaign for re-election, which means he's officially on the market for a new running mate.
It may have been one of the worst-kept secrets at the Capitol. Last fall, she gave a strong hint after saying she and the governor didn't talk much despite being separated by only a few doors in the executive wing.
"I don't think I surprised him," Prettner Solon said. "It's not like we haven't been talking and he doesn't know that I've been thinking about this."
Dayton selected the former state senator from Duluth in 2010. While in office, Prettner Solon led a task force on Capitol security and also spearheaded initiatives focusing on senior citizens.
"I've had a very good 3 years," she said. "I'm pleased with the work I am doing on a number of initiatives."
Yet in spite of being a chief voice for the elderly, she seems to be a lieutenant governor in search of a role at the end. Even though she chaired the Capitol Security Committee, her roles often had limited power.
"It wasn't a well-defined job," Prettner Solon admitted.
On Monday afternoon, she told Dayton that she did not intend to run on the fall ticket, but the decision has been brewing for months -- ever since Prettner Solon revealed she and Dayton didn't communicate often. On Tuesday, that remark even became fodder for one of the Republicans who hopes to unseat Dayton.
"I talked to my lieutenant governor more than Mark Dayton talks to his, and I don't even have one," Marty Seifert quipped.
The discussion is quickly shifting to who Dayton will choose this time. Larry Jacobs, of the Humphrey School, said there are a number of strong candidates.
"Number 1 priority here for Gov. Dayton is to find someone who can help him win the 2014 election," Jacobs said.
Among the contenders are:
- Minnesota Sen. Katie Sieben
- Dayton's current chief of staff, Tina Smith
- Former Iron Range Rep. Tony Sertich
"The governor's big weakness right now is outstate Minnesota, the rural areas and driving turnout up north," Jacobs explained. "The governor knows this, and I think we'll see him tapping into a big name -- someone who is well-established up there politically who can really drive turnout and bring voters come November for the Dayton ticket."
Meanwhile, there is a new bill that would eliminate the post altogether. Minnesota Rep. Phyllis Khan has proposed a constitutional amendment that would abolish the office in January 2015.
As for Prettner Solon, she believes the office is one that simply needs a bit more authority -- not abolition.
"I think that's something that should be revisited, that possibly, it would be better to give more definition through staff and budget, but also through responsibilities of the office," she said.
Dayton's office declined to comment about any possible replacements. Prettner Solon plans to serve out the remainder of her year in her post and has not ruled out another run for a different public office.