MAPLE GROVE -- Shortly before 8 p.m. Thursday, the leaders of the House and Senate, potential rivals for the governor's office this fall, sat down to think of places to look for the current governor.
In a dramatic political gambit, Gov. Jesse Ventura closed his office Thursday afternoon before legislators delivered a deficit-reduction bill he didn't like.
Suddenly, legislative leaders realized they needed to find Ventura before midnight or else the balance of power in the battle to fix the state's $1.95 billion budget deficit would shift from them to him.
"It's a really chicken maneuver," said House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, a Republican running for governor this fall.
When Michele Timmons, the nonpartisan state employee who shuttles legislation around the Capitol, tried to deliver the bill to Ventura just before 5 p.m., she found the office locked. An administrative assistant later stepped out and told Timmons everyone else was gone.
Timmons then drove the 174-page bill to the governor's mansion, about two miles from the Capitol. But only Tyrel Ventura, the governor's son, was home. He said Ventura was out.
Back at the Capitol, Pawlenty met with Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, a Democrat who's running for governor this fall, to plot where Timmons ought to look for Ventura. They also started looking up case law to pose a legal challenge if Ventura succeeds in delaying his acceptance of the bill.
They worried that a day's delay would mean Ventura wouldn't have to act on the bill until Tuesday. And on Wednesday, a new state budget forecast is going to be released.
If Ventura vetoes the bill Tuesday, lawmakers wouldn't have a chance to attempt an override before the forecast shows an ongoing deficit, which would allow Ventura to start cutting state expenditures with his fiscal emergency powers.
Lawmakers raced to finish the bill Thursday so Ventura would have to act on it by Monday.
Shortly after 9 p.m., Timmons and Peter Wattson, a lawyer for the state Senate, drove to Ventura's private residence in Maple Grove. At 10:03, they asked troopers guarding the home to see the governor.
But the troopers turned them away without saying whether Ventura was home.
That's good enough, Wattson told reporters who followed them from St. Paul. He said they believed Ventura was there. "The clock is starting to run," Wattson said.
Back at the Capitol, Pawlenty echoed Wattson's view. But Ventura's spokesman, John Wodele, said he doubted the effort counts as delivering the bill.
As for the nonpartisan bill deliverer, Timmons said, "I'm just doing my job to the best of my ability."
Timmons finally got to hand the bill over to Ventura's staff just after 9 a.m. Friday.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.