Mark Dayton

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Mark Brandt Dayton (born January 26, 1947) is an American politician and the current and 40th Governor of Minnesota, serving since 2011. He was previously a United States Senator for Minnesota from 2001 to 2007, and the Minnesota State Auditor from 1991 to 1995. He is a member of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL), which affiliates with the national Democratic Party.

Incumbent Mark Dayton

A native of Minnesota, Dayton is the great-grandson of businessman George Dayton, the founder of Dayton's, a department store that later became the Target Corporation. He embarked on a career in teaching and social work in New York City and Boston after graduating from Yale University in 1969. During the 1970s, he served as a legislative aide to U.S. Senator Walter Mondale and Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich. In 1978, Dayton was appointed the Minnesota Economic Development Commissioner and married Alida Rockefeller Messinger, a member of the Rockefeller family.

Dayton gained national attention in 1982 during his unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign against Republican Party incumbent David Durenberger. He defeated former U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy in the Democratic primary, and the general election became the one of the most expensive in state history. Dayton campaigned as a populist in opposition to Reaganomics and famously promised "to close tax loopholes for the rich and the corporations—and if you think that includes the Daytons, you're right." After his defeat, Dayton returned to the Perpich administration until his election as Minnesota State Auditor in 1990.

In 1998, Dayton ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor, losing the Democratic nomination to Hubert Humphrey III. In 2000, he was elected to the U.S. Senate after defeating Republican incumbent Rod Grams. As Senator, Dayton voted against the authorization for Iraq War, and became the first Senator to introduce legislation creating a cabinet-level United States Department of Peace. In 2006, he chose not to seek reelection, citing his disillusionment with Washington D.C. and fundraising.

In 2010, Dayton defeated Republican Tom Emmer to become Governor of Minnesota despite national success for the Republican Party, including in the Minnesota legislature. His major legislative initiatives as Governor include the legalization of same-sex marriage and the construction of New Minnesota Stadium for the Minnesota Vikings of the National Football League (NFL) in Minneapolis.

Background and education

Mark Brandt Dayton was born on January 26, 1947 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the eldest of Bruce Bliss Dayton and Gwendolen May Brandt's four children. He is a great-grandson of businessman George Dayton, the founder of the Dayton's department store chain, which later became the Target Corporation. Dayton grew up in Long Lake, Minnesota, and graduated from the The Blake School in Minneapolis, where he was an All-State ice-hockey goaltender as a senior.

Dayton attended Yale University, where he played varsity hockey until an accident on the ice slit his throat. During his tenure at Yale, he joined the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, alongside President George W. Bush, and received his B.A. in psychology (cum laude) in 1969. After college, Dayton worked as teacher in the Lower East Side of New York City from 1969 to 1971, and then as the chief financial officer of a social service agency in Boston, Massachusetts from 1971 to 1975.

Early political career

Dayton first became politically active in the 1960s. He protested the Vietnam War in April 1970 at one of Minnesota's major antiwar protests against Honeywell, where he was maced by police. Dayton's father served on the Honeywell board of directors and the two had a strained relationship after the incident.

From 1975 to 1976 he was a legislative aide to Senator Walter Mondale, prior to Mondale's election to Vice President of the United States. From 1977 to 1978, Dayton served as an aide to Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich.

In 1978, he was appointed by Rudy Perpich to head the Department of Economic Development and then the Department of Energy and Economic Development.

Minnesota State Auditor

Dayton was elected as Minnesota State Auditor in 1990 and served to 1995. After one term, Dayton sought the Democratic nomination for Governor in 1998, but was defeated by Skip Humphrey.

U.S. Senate

Dayton campaigning with Walter Mondale during his first run for the Senate in 1982.


Dayton first ran for the United States Senate in 1982, but lost to Republican incumbent David Durenberger. He was elected to the Senate in 2000, defeating Republican incumbent Rod Grams. Dayton self-financed his 2000 campaign with $12 million.


While in the Senate, Dayton donated his salary to fund bus trips for seniors to buy cheaper prescription drugs in Canada. He generally voted with his fellow Democrats.

On February 9, 2005, he announced that he would not run for reelection, stating, "Everything I've worked for, and everything I believe in, depends upon this Senate seat remaining in the Democratic caucus in 2007. I do not believe that I am the best candidate to lead the DFL Party to victory next year." He also cited his dislike of fundraising and political campaigns. Dayton was succeeded in the Senate by Amy Klobuchar, another DFLer.

On September 22, 2005, the 44th anniversary of the day President John F. Kennedy signed the Peace Corps into law, Dayton became the first U.S. Senator to introduce legislation creating a cabinet-level Department of Peace. At the same time, similar legislation was introduced in the House by Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

In April 2006, Dayton was rated one of America's "Five Worst Senators" by Time magazine, which also labeled him "The Blunderer" for such "erratic behavior" as his temporary closure of his office in 2004 because of an unspecified terrorist threat, his complaints about "limited power in a chamber where authority derives from seniority," and his comments in February 2005 that the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota was "worth a hell of a lot more than the whole state of South Dakota", a remark he later apologized for. News reports of a Dayton question-and-answer session quote the Senator giving himself a "F" grade for his time in the Senate. Largely based on his Washington behavior, The New Republic dubbed Dayton's subsequent run for state-level elected office "Eeyore For Governor."

In September 2006, Dayton requested a review of the Rogers, Minnesota tornado to determine whether the National Weather Service had acted properly and the deaths of victims were unavoidable.

Committee assignments

  • Committee on Armed Services
    • Subcommittee on Airland
    • Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support
    • Subcommittee on Strategic Forces
  • Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
    • Subcommittee on Commodities, Markets, Trade and Risk Management
    • Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources
  • Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
    • Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International Security
    • Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce and the District of Columbia
    • Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
  • Committee on Rules and Administration
  • Joint Committee on Printing

Dayton v. Hanson

In the 2003 lawsuit Office of Senator Mark Dayton v. Brad Hanson questioned the possibility of the wrongful termination of Brad Hanson. Brad Hanson worked as State Office Manager for Dayton; and when Hanson took medical leave for a heart problem and Senator Dayton fired him shortly thereafter. Hanson sued under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, claiming that Dayton had discriminated against him because of a perceived disability, though Dayton argued that he was immunized from the suit by the "Speech or Debate Clause" of the United States Constitution.[20] Dayton claimed that Hanson's duties were directly related to Dayton's legislative functions, and that the decision to fire him could thus not be challenged. The District Court denied the motion, and the case went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, where oral arguments were heard on April 24, 2007. At issue in the case was whether a U.S. Senator can be sued for wrongful termination or if such legal actions are barred by the Constitution's "speech or debate" clause, which protects lawmakers from having legislative work questioned by courts. The Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the appeal and dismissed the case, declining to grant certiorari. Dayton reached a settlement with Hanson in 2009, shortly after Dayton became a candidate for Governor.

Governor of Minnesota

Dayton campaigning for Governor in 2009


On January 16, 2009, Dayton announced his candidacy for Governor of Minnesota. In a crowded Democratic field of challengers, Dayton chose to bypass the state caucuses and convention in favor of the primary election. He stated he made that decision because the primary election is a more democratic method of choosing a candidate. Possibly due to his known dislike of fundraising for campaigns, he relied on personal funds for his campaign. On May 24, 2010, he announced State Senator Yvonne Prettner Solon of Duluth as his running mate for Lieutenant Governor. On August 10, 2010, Dayton defeated the DFL-endorsed Margaret Anderson Kelliher in a close primary election, 41.33% to 39.75%;) Dayton was later endorsed by the Minnesota DFL to earn his party's nomination for governor.

In the general election on November 2, 2010, Dayton led his Republican opponent, Tom Emmer, at the close of balloting by just under 9,000 votes. The margin of victory was small enough to trigger an automatic recount under state law. Analysts generally thought it unlikely that Dayton's lead would be overturned.[30] During the hand recount of ballots, Emmer failed to find enough questionable ballots to overturn Dayton's lead. Emmer conceded the election on December 8, 2010. Minnesota Independence Party candidate Tom Horner received 11.9% of the vote, and it has been suggested that Horner cost Emmer the election by splitting the vote.


Dayton being sworn in as Governor
Dayton speaking to the press in the State Capitol on budget negotiations days before the government shutdown

Dayton took the oath of office to become Governor of Minnesota on January 3, 2011; former Vice President and Senator Walter Mondale served as Master of Ceremony at the inauguration. The first Democrat to serve as Governor in 20 years, Dayton succeeded Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty. On January 5, Governor Dayton signed two Executive Orders allowing the Minnesota Departments of Commerce and Health to apply for federal health-care grants, and provide $1.2 billion in federal funds toward an Early Option for a statewide Medicaid Opt-In program; these Executive Orders reversed the previous administration's ban on federal funding for the state's health-care system. In March 2011, Dayton signed a law increasing penalties on those who injure or kill police dogs.

On July 1, 2011, the Minnesota government went into a shutdown as a result of an impasse during budget negotiations between Dayton and the Republican-led legislature. On July 20, 2011, Dayton and the legislature reached an agreement, ending the 20-day shutdown.

Dayton led an effort to have a new stadium constructed for the Minnesota Vikings. In May 2011, after efforts to have the stadium financed by Hennepin County failed, Ramsey County officials announced they had reached an agreement with the Minnesota Vikings to be the team’s local partner for a new stadium, subject to approval by the Minnesota Legislature and to approval of a sales tax by the Ramsey County Board.[40] Dayton was reluctant to go along with the team's Arden Hills proposal because it would cost a total $1.1 billion, including an additional $131 million for road improvements, and later tried to make a push to have the stadium built on the site of the farmers' market near Linden Avenue in downtown Minneapolis. On March 1, 2012, plans to build the stadium in either Arden Hills or the Linden Avenue site were abandoned after an agreement was announced by Dayton for a new stadium to be built on the site of the Metrodome, pending approval by the state legislature and the Minneapolis city council. In May 2012, the proposal to build the stadium on the Metrodome site was passed by the Minnesota Legislature and soon afterwards signed into law by Dayton; On May 25, the proposal was officially finalized after receiving the approval of the Minneapolis City Council.

In the legislative session that ended in May 2013, Dayton pushed for, and won, a $2.1 billion tax increase, mostly on the wealthy and cigarettes. He also signed a bill legalizing gay marriage in Minnesota, created free, statewide, all-day kindergarten and financed expansions of the Mayo Clinic, 3M and Mall of America. In the spring 2014 session, Dayton came under fire from supporters and foes alike for opposing the legalization of medical marijuana, which polls showed 65% of Minnesotans support. One supporter, the mother of a child with severe epilepsy, alleged Dayton told her in a meeting that he would not legalize the drug but she could buy the drug illegally instead. Dayton denied saying that. On April 2, Marijuana Policy Project began airing an ad across the state attacking Dayton's opposition to medical marijuana legalization, featuring a St. Paul mother and her child whose severe seizures could be cured by medical marijuana.

Political positions

Dayton received 100% ratings from the AFL-CIO, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, and the liberal group Americans for Democratic Action. Dayton received a 79% rating from the League of Conservation Voters for his support of green energy. Dayton scored a 9% rating from the conservative SBE Council.


Dayton supports health-care coverage for all Americans, with increased state and federal spending on health care. Dayton supports a progressive tax to decrease state and federal deficits. To help create jobs, he proposed a state stimulus package as part of his gubernatorial platform.[60] Dayton supports increased funding for K-12 schools, with increased teachers' salaries and decreased class size.

In July 2000, Dayton answered an election questionnaire saying he would expand Medicare prescription-drug coverage. He favors keeping Social Security intact, and opposes privatization of Social Security. He received a 90% rating by the Alliance for Retired Americans.

Medical marijuana

Until 2013, Dayton opposed the legalization of medical cannabis and drug policy reform, adopting the same position as his Republican predecessor Tim Pawlenty. The Marijuana Policy Project called Dayton "no more favorable" to drug policy reform than the last Republican governor. Dayton was reported to have become more favorable to the legalization of medical cannabis in 2014, but advocates for medical marijuana called the position "smoke and mirrors," and claimed he was deliberately stalling progress on a bill to legalize medical marijuana that would otherwise have enough votes to pass. In a meeting with advocates, Dayton allegedly told a mother of a child with severe epilepsy to buy the drug illegally because he would not sign a bill to legalize it, but he denied having said that. When Dayton posed a $2 million study on medical marijuana with the Mayo Clinic instead of signing a bill to legalize medical marijuana, advocates "bashed" Dayton for not allowing suffering patients to have access to the drug. City Pages reported that the Governor could lose the vote of the many supporters of medical marijuana, 65% of Minnesotans, to the 3/5 of Republican candidates for governor in 2014 who "strike a more liberal tone on marijuana reform" than the Democratic incumbent.

Same-sex marriage

With Senator Joe Lieberman and Representative Barney Frank, Dayton introduced legislation to the Governmental Affairs Committee to extend domestic partners of federal employees all benefits available and obligations imposed upon a spouse of an employee.

Dayton voted against a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage in June 2006, and supported civil marriage equality in his gubernatorial platform.

On May 14, 2013, Governor Dayton signed into law a bill passed by the Minnesota House and Senate to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

Iraq war

In October 2002, Dayton voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq. He followed up three years later by introducing Senate Bill 1756 to create a cabinet-level Department of Peace a week after Dennis Kucinich introduced a similar bill in the House. The bill never emerged from the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Personal life

Dayton married Alida Ferry Rockefeller, youngest sister of U.S. Senator John Davison "Jay" Rockefeller IV, in 1978; they divorced in 1986. Dayton and his second wife, Janice Haarstick (Fier), President of Jamahda Farm Inc, divorced in 1999. Dayton has two sons, Eric and Andrew, from his first marriage. Despite his wealth, he lives modestly.

Dayton is a recovering alcoholic and has been treated for mild depression. He revealed this information on his own initiative, saying he felt "people have the right to know." In December 2012, Dayton underwent vertebral fusion surgery at Mayo Clinic to treat his spinal stenosis. On June 25, 2013, Dayton had to cancel an appearance due to a muscle tear.