ST. PAUL, Minn. >> Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton announced Tuesday that he has prostate cancer, revealing the diagnosis hours after collapsing while delivering his State of the State address the night before.
The 69-year-old Democratic governor said he plans to finish the final two years of his term, during which he faces a unified GOP front after Republicans took back control of the Minnesota Senate and strengthened their House majority in November.
Asked whether he was still felt up to the job, Dayton said: “I think I am. If I don’t, I won’t continue.”
He also said he doesn’t believe the recent cancer diagnosis and his fainting were linked. Tests on what caused Dayton to collapse Monday night were scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. He will return to the Mayo Clinic next week to determine treatment options for the prostate cancer.
“I take it very seriously. I have an obligation to all of the people of Minnesota,” he said.
Dayton, who turns 70 on Thursday, has had other health issues since taking office in 2011. A series of back and hip surgeries have left him with a limp, though he said Tuesday he’s no longer in pain. He was briefly hospitalized last year after fainting at a campaign event, later blaming the episode on overheating and dehydration.
Dayton was about 40 minutes into his annual address Monday night when he began stumbling over his words and trailed off, shaking after taking a sip of water and crumbling behind the lectern, where he struck his head. Several state officials watching the address rushed to his side to catch him, and medical professionals serving in the Legislature helped render aid.
He appeared conscious as he was helped to a back room and later walked out of the Capitol on his own to return home, where a top staffer said he was given routine tests by emergency medical technicians.
Dayton returned to work Tuesday morning to unveil his proposal for a $45.8 billion budget. He told reporters that he felt fine Monday until about a minute before losing consciousness.
“It was a very brief episode,” he said.
Dayton said he was diagnosed with prostate cancer Friday after a biopsy and had planned to reveal it after his consultation next week. He said doctors believe the cancer hasn’t spread past his prostate, suggesting it was caught early, and that it would likely be treated with either surgery or radiation. His father, who died in late 2015, underwent successful prostate cancer surgery and lived for 25 more years.
Prostate cancer is among the most common cancers in men and is considered one of its most survivable forms. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 99 percent of patients with early stage cases survived at least 10 years regardless of whether they merely monitored their condition or received treatment.
Dayton frequently joked Tuesday as he addressed questions about his health, saying he was still fit to continue as governor because “as far as I know, there are no brain cells in my prostate” and noting his collapse Monday evening generated good will with Republicans.
“If I had known it would result in Republicans not criticizing my speech, I might have tried it years ago,” he cracked.
Dayton’s latest health troubles overshadowed an ambitious agenda that will likely clash with the Republicans who control both chambers of Minnesota’s Legislature.
Dayton was rounding into a proposal to offer a state-run public health care option for all Minnesota residents when he fainted during his State of the State address. On Tuesday, he released a more detailed proposal for a $45.8 billion budget — a nearly 10 percent increase from the state’s current budget — that includes extra funding for a new preschool program and boosting overall public school spending.
The state has posted several years of surpluses, and the governor has pointed to that financial stability as a hallmark of his six years in office, insisting he’ll safeguard against a return to painful budget shortfalls.