Pawlenty vs. Johnson

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Deep inside this article are 2 paragraphs that makes me wonder about Commissioner Jeff Johnson.

In them, he says “Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, also running for the Republican nomination for governor in the Aug. 14 primary, said Pawlenty’s immigration emphasis is a poll-tested play for the GOP electorate. ‘If [Pawlenty] is talking about it, that means it’s polling well,’ Johnson said, citing $96,000 the Pawlenty campaign spent on polls in recent months, according to state campaign filings. Johnson said in a news conference last week that one of his first actions as governor would be to fly to Washington to tell the Trump administration that Minnesota is no longer accepting refugees.”

One of the first official communications, if not the first, from the Pawlenty campaign was a criticism of Tim Walz, who wants to turn Minnesota into a sanctuary state. This statement was published on May 2. It’s difficult to think that Gov. Pawlenty is simply pandering to primary voters.

I don’t make much of Commissioner Johnson finally addressing the issue until 2 months later. I don’t think Johnson is weak on immigration. What I think is that Johnson is employing a double standard. Apparently, when Jeff Johnson talks about refugee resettlement or immigration, it’s done for the purest of reasons. Apparently, he thinks that when Tim Pawlenty talks about immigration, it’s because it’s polling well, nothing more.

This might be news to Commissioner Johnson:

But in response to e-mailed questions from the Star Tribune, Pawlenty said it’s not a new issue for him. “I have traveled around Minnesota and addressed many issues and immigration is one of those issues,” wrote Pawlenty, who declined an interview request for this story. “This is not a change in focus. In fact, cracking down on illegal immigration was a key priority when I ran in 2002, 2006 and during my time as governor. Illegal immigration is a big problem and it needs to be strongly addressed.”

I don’t recall immigration being a top priority while Pawlenty was governor but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a priority for him. Whatever the case, it’s clearly a problem this time. One thing that’s always been true of Gov. Pawlenty is that he’s a pragmatic, problem-solving politician.

It’s apparent that he’s recognized immigration/refugee resettlement as top issues this cycle. There’s little doubt that he’ll address those issues. Of course, Gov. Pawlenty’s enemies are critical:

DFL critics say Pawlenty’s focus on immigration, then and now, are attempts to distract voters from his record on issues like education, health care and the $6 billion budget deficit that existed when he left office. “This is the Pawlenty playbook,” said Javier Morillo, the president of Service Employees International Union Local 26. Morillo supports U.S. Rep. Tim Walz in the DFL race for governor. “Whenever his poll numbers would go down, he would come up with something divisive,” Morillo said. In the Trump era, Morillo said, Pawlenty is using the same approach “on steroids.”

One thing about Javier is that you’ll never hear him say that a Republican has done anything right, except if it’s to make another Republican look terrible. It’s part of his playbook. With the DFL as with the SEIU, enforcing the law is a divisive topic. (This is also the case with Keith Ellison, who is now running to be Minnesota’s top law enforcement officer.)

At the end of the day, Jeff Johnson’s complaining comes across as whining. It diminishes him. That’s a shame because he’s actually a pretty good guy.