Republicans in the Minnesota Senate elected Sen. David Hann of Eden Prairie to lead the caucus, which will be in the minority in the chamber following Tuesday's election.
Hann, who chaired the Health and Human Services Committee while his party was in the majority for the past two years, was selected during a private meeting of the senators on Friday. He is a former candidate for governor and was a candidate for majority leader of his caucus a year ago, when the senators chose Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, instead.
Senjem did not seek to continue as the caucus leader. In Tuesday's election, the Republican party lost control of both the House and the Senate. In the Senate, the DFL won a 10-vote majority and elected Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, as Majority Leader.
Hann became known in the last two years as a forceful opponent of federal health-care reform and a state health insurance exchange, which is expected to be announced last week. He was re-elected to his Eden Prairie Senate seat on Tuesday.
"We are obviously disappointed in the results of the election," Hann said Friday. "We are looking forward to working with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, and the governor, in the interests in the people of the state.
"We will work with them where we can, but we will also be serving as a check when we think they are exceeding what the people's expectations are."
Hann repeated the party's election argument -- that they turned a $6 billion deficit into a $1 billion surplus during their tenure. DFLers challenged the statement on the campaign trail because the state borrowed $2.4 billion from public schools in order to balance the budget. The state also faces a large projected deficit in the next biennium.
"We are leaving our friends on the other side of the aisle with a considerably better economic picture than they left us, and we're proud of that record," Hann said. "We think we served the people of the state of Minnesota well in the majority."
Hann, 60, was first elected in 2002. Last year, he was one of the Senate leaders who announced the discovery of an affair between Sen. Amy Koch, then the majority leader, and a staffer. That led to Koch's resignation as majority leader and to the departure of the staffer, Michael Brodkorb, who is now suing the state.
Hann also attracted attention during a budget dispute with Gov. Mark Dayton in 2011, when Archbishop John Neinstedt warned legislators against cutting programs for the poor.
In a letter to the Archbishop, Hann wrote: "I was extremely disappointed to learn you endorse the socialist fiction that it is a moral necessity to take the property of the 'wealthy' under the assumption that those resources are better used by politicians and bureaucrats than by the individuals who earn them."
Hann had been a member of the Eden Prairie school board before joining the Senate, and was employed for 22 years by E. A. Sween Co., whose brand name is Deli Express.
While in college, he joined the Army and received the Army Commendation Medal for service in Vietnam. He got a degree in religion from Gustavus Adolphus College and then did graduate work in theology at the University of Chicago.