By Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and J. Patrick Coolican
State Rep. Kurt Daudt, who led Republicans back into a majority in the state House, will be the next Speaker of the House.
"It is the greatest honor of my life to be elected to be the next speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives," Daudt said, surrounded by newly elected and veteran Republican members.
The new House GOP majority selected Daudt in a private five-hour caucus meeting Friday. He faced opposition from two colleagues, Rep. Matt Dean and Rep. Rod Hamilton.
The caucus also picked Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, as majority leader.
"Our goal is going to be to represent all of the people of Minnesota. We're not going to leave greater Minnesota behind as has been done in the last couple years," Peppin said, repeating a frequent Republican hit against Democratic leadership. "There's a lot more of Minnesota than just Minneapolis and St. Paul."
Peppin has been in the Legislature for a decade. Daudt is a more recent addition. A former county commissioner and Republican operative, Daudt was first elected in 2010 and within two years, selected to lead the Republican House in the minority.
Now, he will lead the Republican-controlled House in negotiations with a DFL-controlled state Senate and newly re-elected DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
The Crown Republican is widely credited with successfully managing the Republican effort to take back the House after losing it in 2012. Daudt recruited candidates, raised money and campaigned for them. Republicans were especially successful in outstate Minnesota, where the GOP picked up 10 seats, while also adding one in the suburbs.
Earlier this week, the DFL caucus elected Paul Thissen, outgoing speaker, to be minority leader.
Both Thissen and Dayton sent their congratulations to Daudt.
The Republicans met in private for nearly five hours before they emerged with their leaders. Daudt was selected by acclamation but would not say how many ballots it took to reach the 60 percent vote needed to lead Republicans in the House.
Daudt said he would try to emulate former Republican Speaker Kurt Zellers in creating a "family friendly" House with few late nights and weekend hours. But he said it will be some time before he figures out the rules by which he will run the House.
"You certainly don't want to put the cart before the horse," Daudt said. "We'll figure those things about."
On his style, he said that he is known as someone who is easy to get along with and "somebody that is willing to work across the aisle or on any issue." He said Democrats know they can trust him.
"But," Daudt added. "I'm going to stand up for my core principles."
Photo: Kurt Daudt, Matt Dean and Rod Hamilton//Source: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune