By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Governor Mark Dayton told reporters in Rochester Tuesday that he will be home for the holidays.

The governor underwent two back surgeries late last month at the Mayo Clinic. He says post-surgery complications to his lungs kept him in the hospital for weeks longer than expected.

“I have been limited in my activity by the damage to my lungs and they have improved considerably say in the last two weeks,” Dayton said.

He says after undergoing two back surgeries on October 12 and October 15, he has battled an infection in his lungs.

The governor’s office issued a press release on October 15 that said “[Dayton] will remain [at the Mayo Clinic] for the next few days.”

In fact, Dayton has remained there for the last 35 days.

mark dayton mayo clinic press conference Gov. Mark Dayton To Be Released From Mayo Clinic In Time For Thanksgiving

(credit: CBS)

In only one release between October 16 and November 15 did the governor’s office specifically mention he was still at Mayo. Several other releases made no mention of his continued hospitalization.

The governor defended his administration’s transparency, saying reporters failed to investigate his whereabouts because of the election.

“Suddenly I am not doing a press availability once or twice a week as I have done for the past seven and a half years,” he said. “It should have occurred to somebody that that meant something.”

Dayton has been plagued with serious medical problems for years. In a shocking moment, he fainted during his State of the State address in January of 2017, revealing the next day he had prostate cancer. And his mobility has been hampered for years after two other back surgeries in 2012 and 2015, and hip surgery in 2014.

The governor and his aides repeatedly stressed he has continued to meet with his staff and commissioners throughout his lengthy hospitalization, and has been conducting state business.

Dayton closed by saying he is looking forward to spending the holidays with his family

“Happy Thanksgiving everybody, and I am thrilled to be back in St. Paul tomorrow,” he said.

WCCO-TV did ask the governor’s office for a picture of Dayton recovering at Mayo. His deputy chief of staff told us late Tuesday afternoon they would not be able to provide us one.

Dayton is only in office a few more weeks. Governor-elect Tim Walz will be sworn in on January 7.