ST. PAUL (AP) -- With just a few Senate seats in the way of Republican leadership in both chambers of the Legislature and governorship, Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty has some difficult choices to make in upcoming weeks.
Appointing just two or three DFL senators to high-level state jobs could create a tie or Republican majority in the state Senate and improve Pawlenty's ability to enact his agenda.
The Senate DFL majority now sits at its lowest level in 30 years: 35 DFLers to 31 Republicans and one Independence Party member.
Since 1990, Republicans have won 26 of 33 special elections, and DFLers have won only three outside of Minneapolis, St. Paul or northeastern Minnesota.
Pawlenty said capturing the Senate won't be a driving criteria in his cabinet picks.
"We want quality people first and foremost," he said Wednesday. "I'm not ruling out appointing some Democrats, independents, people who are apolitical, people who have no political background -- we're looking for talent bottom line."
Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger, DFL-St. Peter, said he is well aware that his majority is fragile and that just a couple of appointments could change it.
"We certainly have thought about the threat," Hottinger said, adding that he personally has talked to those senators thought to be top prospects.
Among the names mentioned most frequently are three rural senators: Dallas Sams of Staples, chairman of the Health and Family Security Committee, whose credentials would qualify him for several departments.
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