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Minnesota’s GOP Senate caucus already targeting 2016 races

Senate Minority Leader David Hann is leading efforts for a caucus comeback in dozen districts it considers winnable.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann: “Our state has drifted to become more center left than center right, which is where I think we are.”
MinnPost file photo by Briana Bierschbach

Even though the Minnesota Senate isn’t up for re-election for two years, the Republican caucus, which enjoyed a brief moment in the majority, is doing more than warming the bench.

Senate Minority Leader David Hann, for example, took advantage of the critical mass of activists at the Republicans’ Rochester state convention to do some one-on-one research on districts the GOP hopes to regain in 2016.

“We’ve been working on building some local infrastructure,” Hann told me after a meeting with delegates from Senate District 49, a seat currently held by DFL Sen. Melisa Franzen of Edina.

DFL representation of the district is a particularly sore spot for Republicans. State Rep. Ron Erhardt, who at one time represented the district as a Republican, re-won the seat in 2012 running as a Democrat. Franzen, meanwhile, defeated former state Rep. Keith Downey, who now heads the state Republican Party.

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It’s not a personal battle, though. Hann said it’s a question of restoring political balance, given the DFL’s control of the House, Senate and governor’s office.

That situation, he said, has led to policies that don’t reflect the true political leaning of Minnesota voters.

“Our state has drifted to become more center left than center right, which is where I think we are,” Hann said.

Senate Republicans are targeting a dozen districts, many in the Twin Cities suburbs, which they consider winnable in 2016.

They’re engaging in open opposition research, as in Senate District 49. Hann said he asked delegates from the district, “What was the perception of [Franzen] locally? What do people think about her?”

The Senate caucus is building voter lists, identifying possible candidates and learning what voters want from their candidates, information that Hann said his team will share with House campaigners.

“Building in ’14 pays off in ’16,” he said.

And, of course, there will be fundraising, but Hann says the Senate will step aside for current House efforts.

“We say to donors, ‘If you’re going to write only one check this year, write it to the House,’ ” he said. “ ‘Just remember us when the time comes.’ ”