Four commissioners depart from Walz administration

By Ryan Faircloth

Good morning. Minnesota is losing its top health, education and public safety leaders after Gov. Tim Walz announced the largest shakeup of his cabinet to date on Wednesday. Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, who was the face of the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is retiring. And Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, Education Commissioner Heather Mueller and Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Commissioner Mark Phillips have "chosen not to seek reappointment," the governor's office said.

"I'm grateful to our entire cabinet for their years of service to Minnesota," Walz said as he heads into his second term.

Malcolm and Harrington had served with Walz since he took office. Mueller's exit from the Department of Education comes less than two years into her tenure and amid recent calls for her to resign for failing to swiftly shut down Feeding Our Future, the nonprofit accused of orchestrating the nation's largest pandemic fraud.

Mueller declined an interview request but said in a statement that she felt "like this is the perfect opportunity for me to close this chapter in my life."

Malcolm spoke with my colleague Jeremy Olson after the Wednesday announcement, telling him she always planned to work only one term in Walz's administration. She lost her spouse just before the pandemic began and then her mother in the fall of 2020 amid COVID's second wave. The commissioner said she is ready to grieve, reflect and care for herself.

"I want my job to be to start getting healthier for the near term," she said.

Democratic Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman told me "we were just so fortunate as a state that she was at the helm when COVID struck."

"In my book, Jan Malcolm is eligible for sainthood," Hortman said.

MNLEG: At the State Capitol, leading Democrats say they will push to enshrine abortion protections into state law when the legislative session convenes in January, my colleague Briana Bierschbach reports. Democrats won a trifecta — control of the House, Senate and governor's office — in last week's elections.

"We will be working together to enshrine in law — as well as having in case law — protections that Minnesotans can count on going forward," Hortman said.

Hortman said Democrats will likely revisit the Protect Reproductive Options Act, a proposal to add to state law a "fundamental right to make autonomous decisions about the individual's own reproductive health," according to the bill's language.

The proposal is sure to face pushback from Republicans in the chamber.

"We are a pro-life caucus and so we are going to maintain that," incoming House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, said last week.

WASHINGTON: Republicans officially won back control of the U.S. House on Wednesday, but their narrow majority will pose challenges.

Sen. Mitch McConnell fended off a challenge from Sen. Rick Scott of Florida on Wednesday, winning re-election as the chamber's Republican leader.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to decide whether to seek another term as Democratic leader on Thursday.

In the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, 12 Republicans voted with all Democrats to advance the Respect for Marriage Act that would enshrine marriage equality for all people into federal law. Senate Democrats are hoping to pass the bill while the party still controls the House; Republicans will assume control of the House next year.

KLOBUCHAR: St. Martin's Press announced Thursday that Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar will publish a memoir on May 9 titled, "The Joy of Politics: Surviving Campaigns, Cancer, a Pandemic, an Insurrection, and Life's Other Unexpected Curveballs."

"The theme of the book is resilience," Klobuchar said in a statement. "Personal resilience, yes, but also the resilience of a nation. It is a story of getting through (to use my daughter's words) a lot, and moving forward with joy. In these challenging times, and in our divided politics, we can either choose cynicism and fear, or we can choose joy. And I believe we must choose joy."

WHERE'S WALZ: The governor has no public events today.


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