Candidate Notebook: Dayton Takes Shots In Campaign


Mark Dayton raised a shotgun up to his shoulder, squeezed the trigger and, well, missed.

But he hit the clay “birds” more often than not during a traditional Democratic-Farmer-Laborite event in Buffalo, a trap shoot that takes candidates off the political firing line and puts them on an actual firing line.

The event was a morale booster for Dayton, even if he did not hit as many targets as he wanted.

“I love you, Mark,” one woman told Dayton as he entered the Buffalo Gun Club.

An older man talked about Dayton’s grandfather, and Dayton responded with a story about his first hunting experience in southwestern Minnesota.

Dayton, owner of a shotgun and two pistols, told a group of Democrats gathered around him after he finished shooting: “It’s a tough year for Democrats.”

He also took a figurative shot at Republican candidate Tom Emmer, who Dayton told that friendly crowd would take things “to a further extreme than eight years with Tim Pawlenty.”

He promised to support hunting if he is elected.

“If I’m governor, we will have a governor’s pheasant opener,” he vowed.

 Getting an ‘F’

After Dayton left his only term as U.S. senator, he graded himself with an “F,” and Republicans love to quote a West Central Tribune story reporting that fact.

“I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to in the Senate,” Dayton admitted.

However, he gave the entire Senate the same grade, something Republicans don’t mention. Republicans were in charge during much of his term.

 Dayton humor

The DFL candidate is not known for his sense of humor, at least not to most people.

But take time to get to know him, and another side surfaces.

For instance, after helping convince the Air Force to keep F-16 fighter jets at the Duluth National Guard base, he received a ride in one of the planes. When it shot straight up after taking off from the Duluth airport, he cracked: “That’s not the way Northwest does it.”

Much of his humor is self-deprecating. He made fun of his history as a hockey goalie: “Every goalie was dropped on his head in the first year of life.”

 Signs late

A printer snafu caused many of Dayton’s 20,000 yard signs to arrive late, not a good sign for the campaign.

“That is one of the most visible manifestations of a campaign,” he said.

 Agrees with Emmer

Dayton said he agrees with Republican candidate Tom Emmer in at least one area: “His message is appealing because people are overtaxed.”

Still, he would raise taxes on some Minnesotans while Emmer would love to cut them.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said during a primary campaign she lost to Dayton that his plan to raise taxes would not fly in the Legislature.

“With all due respect to Speaker Kelliher, I won the primary,” Dayton said.

 Late lunch sandwich

On a Saturday campaign trip, Dayton talked to union groups, helped clean out a flooded basement and traveled 11 hours before he ate.

After the flood aid, Dayton stopped at an Owatonna Jimmy John’s shop to order a sandwich. His pick: No. 1, Pepe, “real applewood smoked ham and provolone cheese.”

He skipped the more obvious choice, No. 4 Turkey Tom, the namesake of his two opponents.

Dayton after shooting