The election not only swept the DFL out of the majority in the Legislature but also swept away old DFL legislative leaders.
The new leaders — Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook, and Rep. Paul Thissen of Minneapolis — give the new minority geographic balance. Both have shown gubernatorial ambitions.
Bakk becomes the DFL’s first-ever Senate minority leader. (The DFL had held majority status since the party labels were attached to legislators in the early 1970s ,and the DFL always has had the majority in the Senate — until this election.)
Selected by his peers Thursday, Bakk replaces Larry Pogemiller, who announced he would not seek the minority leader post prior to the Thursday caucus meeting. That likely was a good move by Pogemiller, who, after Tuesday’s debacle, almost certainly would have faced rejection by his colleagues had he tried to retain leadership.
Bakk, a jobs-focused DFL moderate, will be a distinct style contrast to Pogemiller.
Thissen, an early darkhorse who ended up finishing third among those seeking DFL gubernatorial endorsement at the party’s convention last spring, replaces Tony Sertich as the face of the DFL House minority. It’s a position that will help him raise his public profile.
Though they come from different backgrounds — Thissen is Harvard law, Bakk is a union carpenter — both are pragmatic and could work well with Mark Dayton, assuming the DFLers ends up as governor.
In a statement, Bakk noted that both parties share the goal of creating a healthier job market. But he also noted the huge differences the parties have in approaching a balanced budget.
“We can’t balance the state’s budget by dismantling our public school system, making a college degree unaffordable, or closing down nursing homes,” he said. “On Tuesday, nearly 56 percent of Minnesotans voted for a candidate for governor was was up front about the need to include new revenue — along with substantial cuts — to balance the budget.”
Republicans will chose their Senate leaders today and House leaders on Saturday.
Although Dave Senjem of Rochester was the Senate minority leader, he may have a fight on his hand if he wants to become majority leader. Amy Koch of Buffalo, who Senjem himself said was an “architect’’ of the Republican’s sweep to power in the Senate, has indicated she wants the leadership position.
On the House side, it is assumed that Kurt Zellers, who became the House minority leader after Marty Seifert stepped down in a failed effort to become the Republicans’ gubernatorial nominee, will become speaker of the House. Matt Dean and Rod Hamilton are among Republicans who have expressed interest in becoming their party’s majority leader.