Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk has his doubts about the depth of the Republican bench in the Senate.
"I think they are kind of stumbling along making some pretty significant mistakes relative to public involvement," Bakk, DFL-Cook, said Thursday. He said the mistakes are "probably not intentional. I think they just don't know yet."
Bakk, who has been in the Legislature since 1994, also said Republicans lack enough subject matter experts to populate the conference committees that will work out the end of session measures.
"I think that's absolutely right," said Bakk, a veteran of multiple conference committees. "I think they just don't know a lot yet about their subject areas."
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, declined to pile on about the depth of Republican House members' experience. "Mom said never to say anything mean about someone if...to not say anything if you don't have anything nice to say," said Thissen, who was standing by Bakk at a press conference when he made his comments.
Rather than leave the slight alone, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, who has been a senator since 2005, Friday decided to take it on.
"I think he had an 'Oberstar moment,'" Koch, R-Buffalo, said of Bakk during the Friday Republican briefing for the media. Republicans painted former Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar as out of touch with his northern Minnesota district because he served so long. Oberstar lost re-election last year.
"The DFL has created a system of government so convoluted that apparently even they would say that unless you are a career politician you cannot navigate it successfully...I was surprised to hear him dismiss the value of private sector experience. He seemed to indicate that unless you have spent 38 years like Sen. Berglin or 36 years like Sen. Langseth or 34 years like Sen. Cohen ...that you could not fulfill the job of citizen legislator. And we are a citizen Legislature," Koch said.
So proud was the GOP of their comeback that they posted it on YouTube.
The Republicans have not controlled the Minnesota Senate since partisan elections.
The GOP has 16 freshmen senators in their 37 member caucus. Another four have served in the Minnesota House before joining the Senate this year. One, Sen. Sean Neinow, was first elected in 2002 and then lost re-election and returned to the Senate this year. Twelve of the remaining Republican senators joined the senate in 2003 or thereafter.