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Fischbach wants to keep job, with Pawlenty as Minn. governor

Minnesota Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty share a laugh Thursday, May 31, 2018, after Pawlenty introduced Fishbach as his running mate. Don Davis / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL -- Michelle Fischbach barely is settled into her new job, and now she wants to keep it four more years.

Fischbach was sworn in as Minnesota's lieutenant governor last week, after holding the title for most of the year, and on Thursday, May 31, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty named her his running mate as he seeks to return to the governor's job.

Pawlenty called Fischbach, 52, an accomplished legislator who he would treat nearly as a co-governor. He said she would lead an effort to reform the state's higher education systems.

"It would serve the state well ... to make sure she is actively involved in leading and governing the state of Minnesota," the Republican said.

Looking ahead, Fischbach said: "Our efforts will include slowing down health care premiums, preparing Minnesotans for the workforce of the future and making sure government is held accountable."

It is a much broader agenda than the be-there-just-in-case-something-happens-to-the-governor agenda she took into the lieutenant governor job earlier this year. As Senate president, the state Constitution elevated her into the role when Gov. Mark Dayton named then-Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to the U.S. Senate.

Fischbach held the job in title only, concentrating on her job of serving the Paynesville area as state senator, as well as running Senate sessions as its president.

But once the session ended late May 20, and Pawlenty offered her the running mate job, Fischbach resigned from the Senate. Last week, she took the oath of office as lieutenant governor.

On Thursday, she said she already had been picked as a running mate when she resigned, and she called Democrat Dayton Thursday morning to let him know she was joining Pawlenty.

Pawlenty, who served 2003-2011 as governor before becoming a financial business lobbyist in Washington, D.C., said Fischbach has the resume for being lieutenant governor and to be governor if needed. She was senator 22 years.

The ex-governor said Fischbach "is admired across the political spectrum."

However, Democrats' reaction was not supportive.

"By selecting Michelle Fischbach as his running mate, Tim Pawlenty is abandoning any pretense of being a moderate," Chairman Ken Martin of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party said. "Michelle Fischbach represents an element of the Republican Party far out of touch with everyday Minnesotans. She has led Republican attempts to ban marriage equality, restrict health care choices for women and even helped her new running mate, Tim Pawlenty, strip our schools of critical funding."

Pawlenty's Fischbach announcement came a day before Republicans begin their state conventions in Duluth. He and Fischbach said they will not be there.

The former governor announced his attempt to reclaim the office in April, and said he got such a late start that he did not have time to win over convention delegates to receive their endorsement.

Instead, Pawlenty said that he plans to run in the Aug. 14 primary election against the endorsed GOP candidate, who most people think will be Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. It is the same tactic Dayton used in 2010, skipping the party's endorsement to run in the primary with a well-financed campaign.

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.