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Walz names chief of staff, head of transition for new administration

Plus: Melissa Hortman elected Speaker of the Minnesota House; snow causes major traffic problems across the state; Ricky Rubio’s North Loop penthouse goes on the market; and more.

Governor-elect Tim Walz
Governor-elect Tim Walz
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley

In the Star Tribune, J. Patrick Coolican reports, “Among his first decisions: Walz named longtime aide Chris Schmitter, an attorney with the Minneapolis law firm Greene Espel, as his chief of staff. That’s typically the second-most powerful job in a governor’s administration, responsible for managing the state’s massive executive branch and controlling access to the governor. Walz also named Kristin Beckmann, former deputy mayor of St. Paul, to lead his transition effort.”

Also in the Strib, Jessie Van Berkel writes: “The new Democratic majority in the Minnesota House selected Rep. Melissa Hortman as speaker Thursday night, signaling a dramatic reshuffling of legislative priorities after four years of GOP control. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans unanimously re-elected Sen. Paul Gazelka as majority leader. … DFL House lawmakers also selected Ryan Winkler, of Golden Valley, as the next majority leader and Liz Olson, of Duluth, as majority whip.”

WCCO reports: “We didn’t get a lot of snow Thursday night, but it was enough to cause major issues on some Minnesota roads. The Minnesota State Patrol says from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., there were 172 crashes statewide. Of those, 26 involved injuries and 75 vehicles spun out or went off the road. There were no fatal crashes. In the Twin Cities metro, there were 123 crashes, including 12 with injuries. Another 50 vehicles spun out or went off the road.”

Says Paul Walsh in the Strib, “A gunman answered a rock-thrower with bullets at a south Minneapolis gas station and shot a teenager to death, according to charges filed Thursday. Rodney D. Jackson, 27, was charged in Hennepin County District Court with second-degree murder in connection with the shooting late Tuesday morning at the Speedway at the corner of E. 25th Street and Bloomington Avenue S. He was arrested hours later at a suburban movie theater and remains jailed ahead of a court appearance Friday.”

For the AP, Kyle Potter writes, “It was a tale of two political parties in Minnesota on Wednesday: resurgent Democrats who tightened their grip on the governor’s office and two U.S. Senate seats in Tuesday’s election, and wincing Republicans shut out of statewide contests for a 12th straight year and swept out of power in the Minnesota House. … Behind each election lies a troubling and familiar trend for Republicans: They keep losing ground in Minnesota’s metropolitan core and surrounding suburbs.”

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Liz Sawyer of the Strib reports, “Under twinkling lights outside the Minnesota State Capitol, several hundred people braved Thursday night’s frigid weather to rally in support of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 national elections. … The protest was one of many nationwide sparked by President Donald Trump’s firing Wednesday of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose recusal from the Mueller investigation had long angered his boss. Trump replaced Sessions with a longtime ally, Matthew Whitaker, as acting attorney general.”

An AP story says,Two political parties advocating legalization of marijuana in Minnesota are poised to get a boost. Preliminary results show the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party and the Legal Marijuana Now Party both received at least 5 percent of the vote in a statewide contest in Tuesday’s midterm elections, enough to earn major party status in Minnesota.”

Also for the Strib, Jeremy Olson writes, “A University of Minnesota project has shown that training and support for low-income parents can help reduce obesity in children who are most at risk, offering hope at a time of rising concern about overweight American youth. University researchers offered home visits, health classes and phone check-ins to more than 250 low-income parents, then compared the weight levels and health habits of their preschool-aged children with those from families in a control group.”

From City Pages Jay Boller: “Seeking the literal baller lifestyle in downtown Minneapolis? You’ve got a $1.23 million option: Former Timberwolves point guard Rick Rubio is unloading his North Loop penthouse. The industrially chic three-bedroom, three-bathroom, 3,182-square-foot space hit the market three weeks ago. … Originally built in 1920, the warehouse at 700 Washington Ave. N. was redeveloped into Tower Lofts in 2005. Rubio’s towering coworkers must’ve appreciated the 13-foot ceilings, as well as the sprawling rooftop terrace for entertaining.”