Zellers walks fine line on stadium

House Speaker Kurt Zellers is caught in the middle on Vikings project, between supporters and budget hawks.

hide

Gov. Mark Dayton recently made a trip to House Speaker Kurt Zellers’ office to try to get his support for the stadium bill. Zellers has said he won’t block the project, but he has said he would not call legislators to request their support for it.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

More than 50 days after he gaveled the Minnesota House into session, Kurt Zellers remains a puzzle to those who want a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.

With the $975 million proposal teetering in the balance and the Legislature edging closer to adjourning, no one person at the State Capitol is likely to have more to say about what happens to the stadium this year.

Unless the plan passes a legislative committee Friday -- there are no hearings scheduled -- it will need a procedural exemption in the House and Senate to stay alive this session. While Senate Majority Leader David Senjem has indicated he will grant the exemption, Zellers, the Republican speaker of the House, has refused to say what he will do.

The five-term legislator from Maple Grove, a football fan and former college football player, has said that he will not grant the project any legislative favors. He says he is unlikely to decide Friday but could still rescue the plan late in the session by supporting its revival.

It's a disconcerting position for stadium supporters, who say they have been confounded by how little the speaker has done to help the project.

Only last week, Zellers was asked if he would make calls to fellow House members in search of votes if the measure was just a few votes shy of passing. "No. Again, it's the advocates' " job, he said.

"I think he's under a lot of pressure, but he hasn't said that," said Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska, chairman of the House panel where the stadium project will have its first hearing -- if there is one. Hoppe said he believed that, should a stadium plan that does not rely on state general fund money come forward, Zellers would not stop the project.

"I asked him how he's doing," Hoppe said. "He's like, 'What pressure?'"

The pressure however is visible and comes almost daily.

When the 70-page stadium legislation was made public a week ago, Gov. Mark Dayton's first stop that morning was a private meeting in Zellers' office to lobby for the stadium.

Business leaders such as Ecolab CEO Doug Baker Jr. and U.S. Bancorp CEO Richard Davis have joined the stadium lobbying, focusing on House and Senate committee leaders and Zellers. With Dayton and Senjem already strong stadium supporters, Zellers is a major wild card. Adding to the uncertainty is that Zellers is acutely aware that approving public subsidies for a Vikings stadium does not poll well and could jeopardize the Republicans' 72-62 majority in the House.

So business leaders, who have close ties to Zellers and many top Republican legislators, have visited him regularly, sometimes one by one, stressing privately that the business community will support the plan and provide political cover for him and other nervous legislators.

"I have met with some of these business leaders," Zellers said.

They made a simple request, he said: "If they can get a deal done, that I am not going to squash it."

Zellers said he told them he would not stand in the way but also stressed that he will not lobby wavering legislators. For now, business leaders continue pressing Zellers to do more than stand on the sidelines.

Stadium supporters, however, have more to worry about at the State Capitol than just Zellers. That was evident Wednesday, when a Senate panel, after giving the proposal its first legislative hearing, abruptly adjourned without voting when it became apparent there were not enough votes to pass the plan.

Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan, said Zellers -- at least in the House -- remains a key. "There's pressure, but I think it's from two sides, not one," Buesgens said. "One side [is saying], 'What the hell are we doing even talking about this?'

"The other side [is saying], 'Get this damn thing done,'" Buesgens said. "I'm sure he's [between] a rock and a hard place right now. I don't envy him that position."

Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, said she suspects much of the pressure to do nothing comes from Zellers' own House Republican caucus. "He has to speak for them. If he doesn't, he could be out on his ear. So, they are his first masters," she said.

"He has to put up a good game for the business interests," Greiling said.

Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said Zellers was employing a "duck-and-cover" political strategy on the stadium to avoid taking a stand. "What's driving him? Fear," Winkler said.

"Why would the speaker of the House want to raise revenue for a stadium when [the Republicans] shut down state government last summer because they didn't want to raise revenue?" he asked.

At times, however, Zellers has indicated that he was moving toward supporting a Vikings stadium. When the Legislature convened in late January, the House speaker raised eyebrows with his comments. "When you look at where we've come, even in the last six weeks -- let alone six months, or a year -- we've actually now kind of gotten down to a point where we're site-specific," he said at the time.

Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, chairman of the House Taxes Committee, said that he wants to give the stadium plan a hearing, but that he remains unsure where Zellers stands. "I haven't visited with him recently about the Vikings," Davids said. "I probably should stop down, and kind of see what the plan is."

Mike Kaszuba • 651-222-1673

  • related content

  • Passage of new Vikings stadium

    Sunday May 12, 2013

    Complete Star Tribune coverage of Vikings stadium proposal.

  • Rep. Kurt Zellers has not said whether, as House speaker, he will grant an exemption to continue talks on the plan for a new Vikings stadium.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago 11/27/14 11:30 AM
Detroit
Philadelphia 11/27/14 3:30 PM
Dallas
Seattle 11/27/14 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Golden State 100 4th Qtr 5:35
Orlando 82
Brooklyn 88 4th Qtr 3:12
Philadelphia 83
Portland 102 4th Qtr 3:01
Charlotte 93
Washington 71 4th Qtr 7:52
Cleveland 91
LA Clippers 60 3rd Qtr 4:12
Detroit 62
New York 56 3rd Qtr 6:30
Dallas 53
Toronto 80 3rd Qtr 4:44
Atlanta 77
Milwaukee 51 3rd Qtr
Minnesota 47
Sacramento 50 3rd Qtr
Houston 57
Utah 48 3rd Qtr
Oklahoma City 56
Indiana 32 2nd Qtr 9:34
San Antonio 31
Denver 8:00 PM
Phoenix
Memphis 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Winnipeg 2 3rd Prd 10:07
Buffalo 1
Washington 2 3rd Prd 11:38
NY Islanders 2
Philadelphia 1 2nd Prd 2:38
Detroit 3
NY Rangers 2 2nd Prd 1:44
Tampa Bay 3
Carolina 0 3rd Prd
Florida 1
Toronto 0 2nd Prd 12:55
Pittsburgh 2
Los Angeles 4 2nd Prd 16:12
Minnesota 0
Chicago 0 1st Prd 19:37
Colorado 0
Calgary 9:30 PM
San Jose
Robert Morris 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 61
Rochester College 35 FINAL
Eastern Mich 68
Marist 68 FINAL
Fresno State 64
Butler 74 FINAL
North Carolina 66
Liberty 50 FINAL
Morgan State 51
Denver 57 FINAL
Belmont 78
American Univ 64 FINAL
Hampton 60
Sacred Heart 72 FINAL
James Madison 79
Northeastern 54 FINAL
Massachusetts 79
Samford 71 FINAL
Kennesaw St 84
ULM 48 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 61
Hawaii 75 FINAL
East Carolina 73
Missouri 74 FINAL
Chaminade 60
UCLA 65 FINAL
Oklahoma 75
North Florida 72 FINAL
Elon 65
Oral Roberts 69 FINAL
Milwaukee 66
Chicago State 61 FINAL
Western Carolina 66
Purdue 87 FINAL
BYU 85
Furman 54 FINAL
Duke 93
San Francisco 72 FINAL
Evansville 79
Wisconsin 72 FINAL
UAB 43
Davidson 95 FINAL
UCF 69
Albany 75 FINAL
Colgate 71
Longwood 66 FINAL
George Washington 91
Delaware State 76 FINAL
Iona 126
Trinity Baptist 57 FINAL
Jacksonville 69
Cleveland State 33 FINAL
Louisville 45
St Johns 66 2nd Half 1:41
Minnesota 59
PSU-Harrisburg 42 FINAL
Navy 67
Richmond 72 FINAL
NC State 84
Grambling St 54 FINAL
Notre Dame 81
Georgia State 83 FINAL
Oakland 78
Campbell 64 FINAL
Ohio State 91
Goucher 43 FINAL
Towson 97
Bryant 47 FINAL
Vermont 73
Miami-Ohio 63 FINAL
Virginia Tech 78
Mount St Marys 49 FINAL
Wake Forest 83
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Yale 82
UMKC 63 FINAL
Youngstown St 66
Canisius 52 2nd Half 4:16
Cornell 59
Va Military 56 2nd Half 5:50
West Virginia 88
Lehigh 41 2nd Half 17:49
DePaul 32
UC Riverside 31 2nd Half
Loyola Marymount 30
Morehead State 50 2nd Half
Marshall 37
Miss Valley St 27 2nd Half 20:00
North Texas 41
UNC-Asheville 36 2nd Half 17:25
South Carolina 42
Tenn Tech 54 2nd Half 15:50
SE Louisiana 42
Texas Southern 25 2nd Half 20:00
SMU 32
Radford 22 2nd Half 18:48
TCU 33
TX-Pan American 26 2nd Half 19:51
Utah 50
Wayne St-NE 42 1st OT 5:00
South Dakota 47
Kansas State 27 2nd Half
Pittsburgh 30
Northern Ill 15 1st Half 4:10
Iowa 28
Fla Gulf Coast 13 1st Half 5:48
Green Bay 25
Carroll (MT) 8:00 PM
Montana
Florida A&M 0 1st Half 20:00
New Mexico St 0
Auburn 2 1st Half 17:39
Oregon State 3
Eastern Ky 8:00 PM
Southern Utah
Stetson 0 1st Half 20:00
Wyoming 0
Northern Ky 0 1st Half 20:00
Eastern Wash 0
Utah Valley U 6 1st Half 16:53
Idaho State 2
Florida 8:30 PM
Georgetown
Georgia 8:30 PM
Gonzaga
Northwestern 8:30 PM
Northern Iowa
Cal Poly 9:00 PM
California
Arizona 9:00 PM
San Diego St
Utah State 9:00 PM
UC Davis
Alabama State 9:30 PM
North Dakota
Portland State 10:00 PM
CS-Northridge
Tulsa 10:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Pacific 10:30 PM
Alaska-Anchorage
Missouri State 11/27/14 1:00 AM
Colorado State
Ohio U 24 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 21
LSU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas A&M
(6) TCU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Kennesaw St 74 FINAL
Seton Hall 77
Northern Ill 46 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 55
Illinois-Chicago 40 FINAL
Northwestern 61
UT Martin 75 FINAL
Samford 79
Niagara 63 FINAL
Binghamton 52
Radford 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 72
East Tenn St 69 FINAL
Indiana 97
North Dakota 72 FINAL
Nebraska Omaha 52
Marshall 49 FINAL
Cornell 58
Oral Roberts 43 FINAL
Ark-Little Rock 54
LSU 0 Postponed
Texas-El Paso 0
Boise State 59 FINAL
Yale 53
Evansville 39 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 83
(4) Tennessee 63 FINAL
Chattanooga 67
Delaware State 64 FINAL
Mount St Marys 73
Bradley 74 FINAL
Columbia 81
Providence 56 FINAL
Dayton 72
Presbyterian 43 FINAL
Xavier 45
Albany 64 FINAL
Canisius 59
VA Commonwealth 48 FINAL
William & Mary 56
Alabama A&M 44 FINAL
Alabama 75
Colgate 35 FINAL
(22) Georgia 66
Memphis 75 FINAL
Southern Ill 82
Oakland 54 2nd Half 5:35
(16) Michigan State 72
Utah Valley U 24 2nd Half
UC Davis 35
Butler 26 2nd Half
BYU 41
TX-Pan American 17 2nd Half 20:00
(6) Texas 34
McNeese State 14 2nd Half 20:00
(7) Texas A&M 54
Milwaukee 42 2nd Half
Marquette 43
Northern Ariz 26 2nd Half
TX-Arlington 41
Jackson State 11 1st Half 11:04
Chicago State 25
Indiana State 40 2nd Half
South Alabama 20
Kansas State 0 Postponed
Santa Clara 0
Long Beach St 8:00 PM
Alaska-Anchorage
Iona 0 1st Half 20:00
Kansas 0
Fresno Pacific 9:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close