Minnesotans entrusted a new crop of elected officials with big jobs in the November election. The next year will be a hugely important proving ground, while for some veteran political leaders, 2019 will offer new opportunities and challenges.
Here are some key questions for 2019:
Does Sen. Amy Klobuchar have what it takes?
Klobuchar is coming off a huge re-election win and is said by advisers to be making a decision on a run for the presidency. She's one of the best retail politicians in the country, which is what matters in early presidential states like Iowa and New Hampshire. And Democrats in 2020 might be looking for a Midwesterner, through which the presidency often runs.
But she's unknown to most Democratic primary voters, including all-important black voters in the South and Latino voters in the Sun Belt. And she's neither a huge fundraiser nor a star of the party's emerging progressive wing.
What type of governor will Tim Walz be?
Gov.-elect Tim Walz needs to staff up his administration and propose a budget by Feb. 19. For what he lacks in experience compared to his predecessor, Gov. Mark Dayton, he'll make up for in energy. He'll travel the state "relentlessly," he told me. Can he say no to DFL interest groups who are ravenous following their big election victory? Can he play the inside game, especially with a Republican state Senate?
Can Melissa Hortman protect her new majority?
The new Minnesota House speaker has a lot to manage. The Democrat from Brooklyn Park leads a bevy of new members from closely contested suburban districts. Can she get something done on big priorities like health care, education and gun control?
Who will be rookie of the year in the delegation?
The Minnesota congressional delegation suddenly has five new members, including three Democrats from the metro and two Republicans from greater Minnesota. Which one will distinguish himself or herself early on? Which one will fall on his or her face? It's anyone's guess, as one never knows how people will perform in the hothouse political environment of Washington.
Where do Republicans turn?
After 2018's electoral thumping, Republicans I talk to are bereft. GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan has not announced whether she is running for re-election. The party has not won a statewide race since 2006. Can anyone save them? Which leads us to:
Is Tom Emmer a future speaker? Governor?
The congressman from the Sixth Congressional District is chairing Republican efforts to take back the U.S. House. This year will be crucial in recruiting candidates and raising money. Emmer is another Minnesotan in the national conversation, and his current job could be a springboard to bigger things. Maybe Minnesota Republicans can beg him to run for governor again.
J. Patrick Coolican 651-925-5042 Twitter: @jpcoolican