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Continued: First-term Minnesota House Speaker Paul Thissen no schmoozer

Thissen says he is consciously trying not to “impose a vision” on how members should vote. Instead, he asks, “What are you thinking about? What are you hearing? What are you feeling?” Then he listens.

“He never puts on any pressure,” said Rep. Jay McNamar, a DFL freshman from Elbow Lake who is on the fence about his vote. “He always lets you make your decisions. And you know what? That’s admirable.”

Although he is not keeping a detailed list — this week he was caught unaware when DFL Rep. Kim Norton removed her name from a civil union alternative to marriage — Thissen said he talked to 20 members whose votes on same-sex marriage have been in doubt. Even so, he remains unsure he has the 68 votes needed for passage.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I really don’t know.”

With other political leaders, saying “I don’t know” could be a ruse, but allies say that’s not how Thissen operates.

“I think it’s easy to see legislative leaders as being game-players and dealmakers. … I think you would be misreading Paul Thissen if you saw him as somebody like that,” said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley.

Thissen said the outcome should satisfy Minnesotans.

“The end product, even though things will be messy along the way, will be a good product for Minnesotans,” he said. “And that, I hope, is what they will judge us on.”

 

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • Twitter: @RachelSB

 

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