Over a lunch of pork and potatoes at the governor's residence in St. Paul on Thursday, Gov. Mark Dayton and Rep. Kurt Daudt -- soon to be the Republican speaker of the House -- discussed the upcoming legislative session, and also took a few minutes to talk about their dogs.
Dayton and Daudt, R-Crown, met privately for a little over an hour. Shortly after Republicans retook the House majority earlier this month, Daudt's GOP colleagues chose him to be the next speaker. He'll officially ascend to the post in January, when the new session starts.
"The governor said it was a congenial conversation, and a great opportunity to get to know the new speaker better," said Matt Swenson, Dayton's spokesman. Dayton and Daudt share a love of dogs, and both own two.
While the lunch chatter may have been friendly, the new Republican majority is likely to complicate the DFL governor's efforts to pursue an ambitious second-term agenda. The last time Dayton shared power with Republicans at the Capitol, in 2011-12, it led among other things to a 21-day state government shutdown amid disputes over taxes and spending cuts.
Swenson said the two men didn't talk with too much specificity about issues, although he said both transportation and education were among the discussion topics.
Democrats and Republicans have both argued that the state needs to put more money into upgrading the state's transportation infrastructure, but the two parties differ in how best to do that. While Democrats are more likely to look for new sources of revenue, Republicans will argue that should be accomplished by spending less in other areas of state government -- including money for transit projects prized by many Democrats.
Dayton has been meeting privately with the Legislature's top leaders in recent days. Prior to Thursday's meeting with Daudt, he met with Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and with Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, who in January will transition from speaker to minority leader.
Swenson said Dayton was also seeking to meet soon with Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, the leader of Senate Republicans.
A recount of the state House race in District 48A has been completed, and it confirms the original results, with DFL Rep. Yvonne Selcer holding on to her seat by 41 votes.
In the recount, Selcer picked up six additional votes, while her Republican opponent, Kirk Stensrud, picked up one additional vote. There were 19,171 votes cast in the close contest in the suburbs west of Minneapolis.
House Republicans, who won back the majority in this month's election, maintain a 72-62 advantage.
Democrats attribute Selcer's victory to sheer effort: She is said to have started walking her district as soon as she won election in 2012 and continued through re-election, slogging through neighborhoods even during the coldest days of winter.
(This post has been updated)
Minnesota House Republicans, preparing to take over the majority following the results of November's election, have announced a roster of 26 House committees that put a particular focus on rural Minnesota issues.
New committees include a separate Agriculture Finance Committee, to be chaired by Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake. Republicans from outstate Minnesota complained bitterly two years ago when Democrats rolled agriculture finance issues into a broader Environment and Agriculture Finance Committee, which was chaired by a lawmaker from Minneapolis.
Republicans also created or re-tooled several committees that seem geared toward rural Minnesota concerns. An Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee will be chaired by Rep. Joe Schomacker of Luverne, and comes amid concerns about lack of funding for nursing homes in small communities.
In addition, the Jobs and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee has become the "Greater Minnesota Economic and Workforce Development Committee." It will be chaired by Rep. Bob Gunther of Fairmont. Another new committee is the Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee, to be chaired by Rep. Tom Hackbarth of Cedar.
"I'm proud to say that more than half of our chairmen represent communities in greater Minnesota and will be an integral part of a renewed effort to represent the entire state in policy-making," said Rep. Kurt Daudt, who Republicans chose to take over as speaker in January.
Rep. Paul Thissen, the Minneapolis DFLer who will transition from speaker to minority leader in January, said the new committees reflect a "divide and conquer" approach to integrating urban and rural concerns.
"It is disappointing to see Republicans in the House continue to focus more on talking points than solutions," Thissen said.
A handful of veteran Republican lawmakers will lead the most influential committees. Rep.-elect Jim Knoblach of St. Cloud, who is returning to the Legislature after eight years away, will once again chair the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which assembles the state budget. Knoblach previously chaired Ways and Means from 2003 to 2006. Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, will resume chairmanship of the Taxes Committee, which he previously led in 2011-12.
Funding for transportation is expected to be a major issue in the 2015 session, which starts Jan. 5. To lead the Transportation Policy and Finance Committee, Republicans tapped Rep. Tim Kelly of Red Wing. It's an unconventional choice in that Kelly does not currently serve on any transportation committees. But he has a moderate reputation, and it could be a signal that House Republicans want to engage with DFL Gov. Dayton and the new Senate DFL majority in tackling what all agree is a growing shortfall in funding for the state's transportation system.
A full list of the new committee chairs can be found here.
State House Speaker-designate Kurt Daudt annouced that veteran political operative Ben Golnik will be the executive director of the Republican caucus. That's the top staff job of the newly elected majority caucus.
Golnik stepped down today from the Minnesota Jobs Coalition, a Republican-aligned group of which he was chairman. That group was credited with helping Republicans take back the state House by dumping money into closely contested races. Republicans flipped 11 seats, including 10 in outstate Minnesota, to take a 72-62 majority.
Kevin Magnuson, a co-founder of the Minnesota Jobs Coalition, will replace Golnik as the new chairman of that group.
Golnik has had his own public affairs firm, Golnik Strategies, and has worked at the top of state Republican Party politics for nearly a decade. He was executive director of the Minnesota Republican Party beginning in early 2005. Later, Golnik was regional campaign manager for John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2008, and in 2010 he managed the gubernatorial campaign of former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert.
Digging into the data from the House election last week, we came up with some interesting tidbits.
More voters in the tony Hennepin County suburban of Edina voted in the Minnesota House race than voters of any other district. Nearly 20,000 people cast ballots for the two candidates vying for the 47A seat. Democratic Rep. Ron Erhardt, a former Republican member of the House, bested Republican candidate Dario Anselmo garnering 51 percent of the vote.
Hello, St. Paul?
Just four miles from the Minnesota Capitol, voters in St. Paul’s 67A gave the House race a pass. Fewer than 7,500 voters cast ballots in that House race. DFL Rep. Tim Mahoney, who has long represented that St. Paul district, still did well. He got 72 percent of the vote, or 5,400 votes, for a vote total and a vote percentage that bested most of his colleagues.
You’re the tops
Highest percentage of the vote: Rep. Tim O’Driscoll, R-Sartell. He got 97.48 percent in an unopposed race.
Most votes: Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis. He had a Republican opponent but still received 15,026 votes, more than any other House candidate.
In southern Minnesota, 459 voters of House District 23B wrote in candidate names, more write-in votes than any other districts. The high number may not be surprising – Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, was unopposed so voters there had the choice of voting for him or penciling in another option. The write-ins were little blow to Cornish’s vote total. He won 11,339 votes, or 96 percent of the votes in the House race.
Minnesota-House Speaker Designate Kurt Daudt will start his term in January with only three terms under his belt. He is the first speaker with that little seniority since the 1930, according to figures compiled by the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library.
There and back again
Current House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, was selected by his DFL colleagues last week to lead them in the minority next year. It's a role that's familiar to him. He was the DFL's minority leader from 2011 to 2012 and became speaker in 2013, when the DFL took over the House. The reference library could find just one other case of a leader making that journey -- Aubrey Dirlam did it about 40 years ago. But, the library found, unlike Thissen, there was a time gap between when he served as minority leader then speaker then minority leader again.
In 2008, Democrats won the House. In 2010, Republican took it over. In 2012, Democrats took it back. And in 2014, it flipped to Republicans again. The quick turnaround of party power -- four times in four election cycles -- is the speediest the Star Tribune could find on record.
Photo: Archive photo of House Speaker Paul Thissen speaking to Minority Leader Kurt Daudt in 2014. Next year, Daudt will be speaker and Thissen will be minority leader. Source: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune.
Updated to remove a map of speakers' hometowns that was not properly listing all speakers and correct a party designation.
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