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Minnesota Gov. Dayton collapses during speech

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Mark Dayton collapsed while delivering his State of the State speech on Monday, striking his head on a lectern. The 69-year-old Democrat appeared to be conscious as he was helped into a back room several minutes later, and three colleagues and his son said he seemed to be OK.

Chief of Staff Jaime Tincher released the following statement:

“Tonight, Governor Dayton briefly fainted after speaking for about 40 minutes. He quickly recovered, walked out of the Capitol, and returned home. EMTs joined the Governor there, and performed a routine check. He is now spending time with his son and grandson. The Governor will present his 2017 Budget tomorrow at 11:15 a.m., as planned. Governor Dayton and his entire staff the people of Minnesota for their outpouring of support and concern.”

Dayton spokesman Linden Zakula said the governor walked out of the Capitol under his own power. House Speaker Kurt Daudt said that Dayton was “up and about” minutes after the incident and that the governor would be all right. Sen. Dan Schoen, who is also a paramedic, was among those who went to Dayton’s aid; he said Dayton was acting normally within 20 minutes of the collapse and poking fun at himself.

Dayton’s son Eric, who was watching the speech from the House gallery, tweeted that his father was with him and he was “doing great.” Eric Dayton also tweeted that the governor was doing “a very advanced puzzle” with his grandson Hugo, “so that has to be a good sign!”

Nearing his 70th birthday on Thursday, Dayton has a history of health problems.

Dayton was hospitalized in February 2016 after he fainted at a hot and crowded event. His office said at the time that he had been feeling pressure in his lower back — he had undergone elective back surgery the previous December — before he lost consciousness. Dayton spent just a day in the hospital, and said afterward he had been treated for dehydration.

In addition, a series of back and hip surgeries in recent years has left him with a permanent limp.

The governor fell about three-fourths of the way through his speech as he laid out the opening salvo in a brewing battle with Republican legislative majorities over where to bring the state after November’s elections, including his proposal for a state-run public health care option for all Minnesota residents.

Dayton appeared to stumble as he first entered the House chamber, but joked it away, saying he should have attended the walkthrough. But he appeared to lose his place in his remarks roughly 40 minutes into his speech, trailing off in the middle of a sentence before pausing to take a long drink of water for a bottle he had below the lectern.

When he tried to resume his address, he spoke only a few slurred words before his shoulders appeared to shake and he crumbled behind the lectern, striking his head. A frantic voice could be heard over the microphone saying “get him to the ground. Get him to the ground please” as those around Dayton rushed to assist him.

He is expected to be okay.