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Pawlenty passes baton to Dayton

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ST. PAUL -- There is no doubt the election is over: Democrat Mark Dayton, Minnesota's governor elect, and Republican Tim Pawlenty, who holds the office until Jan. 3, sounded like old pals Thursday after they met privately and before Pawlenty and his wife showed Dayton and his sons around the governor's residence.

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"Peaceful transition of democracy is a wonderful thing," Pawlenty said, pledging to give Dayton and his staff all the help needed to assume office.

The most substantial agreement was about Dayton's pick for transportation commissioner, incumbent Tom Sorel.

The Pawlenty appointee had another job opportunity, Dayton said, so he moved quickly to keep the man who has been widely praised for his work. Dayton said that Sorel is recognized as a transportation leader nationwide.

Outgoing Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, praised Dayton's decision. Murphy, who is retiring from the Senate, said he considered throwing his hat in the ring for the position until he called Sorel to see if he wanted to retain the job.

"I made sure that they knew my name was not on the list," Murphy said. "It's not going to get any better than Tom Sorel."

Dayton said he does not know if he would ask any other Pawlenty Cabinet member to stay on the job, even temporarily. "We are really in the beginning of this process."

A statewide recount of 2.1 million governor race ballots delayed Dayton's work getting ready to be governor. He began his own privately funded transition team, but now can move into an office across the street from the Capitol and will receive $162,000 of state funds to expand the work.

Dayton said he has lists of people interested in key administration jobs and will announce his selections from time to time, starting today by revealing his pick for chief of staff.

The Pawlenty-Dayton news conference came after they met for the first time since a state election board Wednesday declared Dayton the winner of the governor race against Republican Tom Emmer, who conceded Wednesday morning after he failed to pick up votes during the recount.

Saying he "has enjoyed his company" over the years, Pawlenty praised Dayton for attending military funerals.

Dayton returned the compliment and said Pawlenty is leaving a strong pro-military legacy.

"Today is the ceremonial passing of the baton," Pawlenty said. "Whatever the governor-elect needs, we will get it to him."

Pawlenty said Dayton faces a tough job getting ready in the recount-shortened transition: "That is a tall order even for the most experienced of leaders."

During their news conference, the pair avoided criticism they lofted against each other during the governor campaign. Dayton, for instance, often blamed Pawlenty's anti-tax policies for adding to the state's financial problems.

Mike Longaecker of the Red Wing Republican-Eagle contributed to this story. Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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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.
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