Mark Dayton recovering after collapsing during his State of the State address
By David Montgomery and Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
PUBLISHED: January 23, 2017 at 7:51 pm | UPDATED: January 24, 2017 at 12:24 pm
UPDATE: Gov. Mark Dayton has prostate cancer, says he is able to do the job
Gov. Mark Dayton collapsed during his State of the State address Monday evening in front of an assembled audience of lawmakers, state officials and Minnesotans.
The 69-year-old Dayton fainted 45 minutes into the speech before a joint session of the Legislature at the state Capitol in St. Paul. After spending several minutes on the ground in the House chamber, he walked into a back room with assistance. His staff later said that he returned home, was evaluated by medics and is planning to deliver his biennial budget on Tuesday.
The governor, who will turn 70 on Thursday, has had a series of health concerns during his two terms, including one prior fainting spell and hip and back surgeries.
On Jan. 31, 2016, Dayton spent a night in the hospital to be treated for dehydration after collapsing at a political event. Last year, the governor, who is occasionally unsteady on his feet, said he was aware that he had physical limitations but vowed to serve out his last term.
Although he has used a cane in public and has been out of the public eye during his back surgeries, Dayton has not had such a public collapse — with the entire state watching — before.
There were some early signs that the governor was not doing well Monday night. He stumbled as he walked up to the dais in the House chamber but quickly recovered and joked: “I knew I should have shown up for the walk-through.” During the speech, Dayton took several long pauses in his prepared remarks.
Shortly before the collapse, which happened about three-fourths of the way into the speech, Dayton paused again and drank from a bottle of water before falling onto the dais. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and others seated on the dais rushed to help him.
There were audible gasps from the assembled audience of lawmakers and officials, many of whom appeared shaken in the aftermath.
The House sergeant-at-arms brought a first aid kit, which included oxygen, and many officials — including lawmakers with emergency and medical expertise — huddled around the prone governor.
After about five minutes, Dayton arose, with assistance, waved at the audience and went into a back room. Those in the House chamber applauded as Dayton rose.
“He fell and he lost his footing. Some of us just tried to brace him,” said Secretary of State Steve Simon, who was nearby. “The good news is, at the end, you saw he went out, with some assistance, under his own power.”
Dayton staffers said that the governor hit his head on the lectern as he collapsed, according to reports.
The governor slurred his words before he crumpled and, in a video of the speech, a thud can be heard, along with instructions from a calm voice to “Get him to the ground. Get him to the ground, please.”
House Speaker Kurt Daudt said the Democratic governor was “up and about in the back room.”
“The governor is in our thoughts and prayers,” said Daudt, R-Crown. “I hope for a quick recovery.”
“When things like this happen … we’re really all here just praying for the governor,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa. “We’re all one Minnesota in things like this. We care for each other. That’s our whole focus right now, period, is praying for our governor.”
About a half-hour after Dayton’s collapse, his son Eric Dayton said on Twitter that his father was doing better and playing with Hugo, his grandson.
“I’m with my dad now and he’s doing great,” Eric Dayton said. “Thank you all for your kind well-wishes and words of concern.”
Longtime lawmaker Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said he was shocked by the event.
“I have been to 25 of these and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Davids. “I hope all Minnesotans pray for our governor tonight.”
The longest-serving member of the Legislature, DFL Rep. Lyndon Carlson of Crystal, said he had never before seen a governor have a serious health event during his 44 years at the Capitol.
The collapse came at a busy time for Dayton. He has spent weeks preparing for his seventh State of the State address and his biennial budget, which come in quick succession.
Dayton is scheduled to deliver his budget Tuesday, the deadline for delivering it, according to state law. The law is silent on whether he has to deliver it in person.
Davids, the chair of the House Taxes Committee, said he expected that lawmakers would be flexible on the deadline.
“I would hope that we would give him some extra time,” Davids said, noting that the final decision would not be up to him. “I know there’s some deadlines, but we have to be concerned about the governor’s health at this point.”
About an hour after Dayton’s collapse, the governor’s chief of staff, Jaime Tincher, said the governor walked out of the Capitol and went to the Governor’s Residence in St. Paul. Emergency medical technicians joined the governor at his home and performed a routine check, she said.
“He is now spending time with his son and grandson,” she said shortly before 9 p.m.
Tincher said that Dayton plans to deliver his budget Tuesday, despite the collapse.
“The governor will present his 2017 budget tomorrow at 11:15 a.m., as planned,” she said. “Gov. Dayton and his entire staff thank the people of Minnesota for their outpouring of support and concern.”
After Dayton collapsed, lawmakers quickly adjourned the joint session of the Legislature.
Dayton’s collapse came before he reached the part of his speech where he was going to propose a “public option” for Minnesota’s individual health insurance market. Republican lawmakers, who don’t support such a proposal, said they would refrain from criticizing Dayton’s proposals Monday night.
Bill Salisbury contributed to this report.