BEST POLITICIAN - 2003
If you've really had it with the myth that Gov. Tim Pawlenty is an affable, witty guy, then Rukavina is your kind of anti-hero. The clashes these two have had at the capitol over the years are the stuff of legend, and more often than not it's the state rep from Virginia who draws the last laugh for his self-deprecating comedic timing. But there's more to the man than that. Rukavina is a classic, fiery DFLer--a blunt, working-class type who cares as much about children and schools as he does about labor issues--the kind that seems to be in short supply these days. While many in Rukavina's party seem content to let the new conservative crusaders run roughshod over Minnesota's long-admired social programs, Rukavina has been a constant voice of dissent against the Republican politics of fear and greed. While Pawlenty and House Speaker Steve Sviggum have baited him with the moniker "Tommie the Commie," Rukavina has opted for the high road, wondering why his legislative colleagues have suddenly made their attacks so personal, and directing the discourse back to what is good for the state of Minnesota. While the legislator would be loath to make the comparison, it's clear that Rukavina is carrying on Paul Wellstone's underdog legacy, not just in word, but in deed.