No one saw this one coming: Minnesota Republicans on Tuesday won control of both the state Senate and House.
It’s a reversal of the past eight years, when DFLers controlled the Legislature and continually battled Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty on budget and social issues. Now if DFLer Mark Dayton becomes governor (pending a recount), he will face off against a Republican Legislature.
And given the rhetoric and unyielding positions on both sides, we can look for another string of standoffs.
Even state Republican leaders seemed surprised late in the evening when it first became clear the change-over was happening. And DFLers were shocked, having predicted that they’d buck the national trend to red and would retain their majorities.
“It’s unbelievable,” said the re-elected state Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, told the Star Tribune. “Just an unbelievable night.”
DFLers had controlled the Senate with a veto-proof 46-21 majority, which had helped — a bit — in the Legislature’s ongoing battles with Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto pen.
Now, Republicans hold a 36-31 edge, with none of their incumbents losing their seats. And it means DFL senators will move out of their offices in the state Capitol building — where the majority party in the Senate is housed — and into the minority party’s digs in the State Office Building, across the street.
State Sen. David Senjem of Rochester had been the minority leader; now he’s likely to become majority leader, after helping engineer the dramatic GOP comeback. He gave credit to a great crop of GOP candidates who’d been recruited to run.
“They brought us home a victory,” Senjem told the Pioneer Press. “More than that, they brought us home the majority in the Senate.”
In the state House, Republicans made huge gains, too, in gaining a majority. Democrats had controlled the House 84-47, but Tuesday’s election brought a dramatic change, putting the GOP in charge 73-61. (Several recounts are possible in legislative races, too.)
Until Tuesday, Democrats had been wondering how to replace House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who gave up her seat to run unsuccessfully for governor. Now it appears that House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers of Maple Grove will become speaker.
Last night, when it first appeared the Republicans would prevail in the House, Zellers, too, gave credit to “the work ethic” of the candidates. He said the priority for the new House would be “jobs and the economy.”
He said: “Our main focus will be to make things better for business owners in the state.”
He wouldn’t speculate on how the body might work with a DFL governor (assuming Dayton prevails) but did say tax increases aren’t on the agenda. “Raising taxes in a down economy is a job killer,” he said.
Here’s a list of incumbent legislators who lost, compiled by Tom Scheck of MPR:
HOUSE — 19, all DFLers
- Dave Olin, of Thief River Falls (District 1A)
- Bernard Lieder, of Crookston (1B)
- Tim Faust, of Hinckley (8B)
- Al Doty, of Royalton (12B)
- Al Juhnke, of Willmar (13B)
- Gail Kulick Jackson, of Milaca (16A)
- David Bly, of Northfield (25B)
- Robin Brown, of Moscow Township (27A)
- Andy Welti, of Plainview (30B)
- Phil Sterner, of Rosemount (37B)
- Sandra Masin, of Eagan (38A)
- Mike Obermueller, of Eagan (38B)
- Will Morgan, of Burnsville (40A)
- Paul Rosenthal, of Edina (41B)
- Maria Ruud of Minnetonka (42B)
- Jerry Newton, of Coon Rapids (49B)
- Paul Gardner, of Shoreview (53A)
- Julie Bunn, of Lake Elmo (56A)
- Marsha Swails, of Woodbury (56B)
SENATE — 13 DFLers
- Mary Olson, of Bemidji (District 4)
- Dan Skogen, of Hewitt (10)
- Lisa Fobbe, of Zimmerman (16)
- Rick Olseen, of Harris (17)
- Kevin Dahle, of Northfield (25)
- Ann Lynch, of Rochester (30)
- Sharon Erickson Ropes, of Winona (31)
- Jim Carlson, of Eagan (38)
- John Doll, of Burnsville (40)
- Leo Foley, of Coon Rapids (47)
- Don Betzold, of Fridley (51)
- Sandy Rummel, of White Bear Lake (53)
- Kathy Saltzman, of Woodbury (56)