Rumored DFL Senate revolt against Pogemiller fizzles

Larry Pogemiller
 Sen. Larry Pogemiller

One of Minnesota’s most divisive politicians apparently has survived to lead again.

Throughout the fall, there was hot talk among DFL state senators that Larry Pogemiller needed to be dumped halfway through his first two-year term as the Senate majority leader.

But now, weeks from the opening of the legislative session, the discussion has cooled, and there likely will be no rebellion. The two senators who would have been in the most obvious position to lead a revolt, Steve Murphy of Red Wing and Tom Bakk of Cook, both have said in interviews with MinnPost that they aren’t going after Pogemiller.

Even DFLers find fault with leader
That’s not to say they’ve developed fondness for the Minneapolis DFLer, who has been described as condescending, arrogant, rude and manipulative. (And that’s just what DFLers say about their leader.)

“We made things more difficult, not better, for the DFL by electing Pogemiller,” said Murphy. “But I don’t think the majority of the members of the caucus are ready to make a change. As I look around the caucus, I don’t see a consensus candidate at this point. There are some wonderful young members, but they’re not quite ready yet. Soon it will be time to turn the reins over to the new members. But for now….”

It remains Pogey time.

Bakk, who pushed Pogemiller to six ballots before losing his bid to become majority leader before the start of the 2007 session, said he told Pogemiller in September that he wouldn’t lead a revolt before this session.

“I told him that he didn’t have to look over his shoulder as far as I was concerned,” he said.

Bakk said he’s too involved in his role as chair of the Senate Tax Committee and in pondering whether to make a run for governor in 2010 to get involved in an internal fight.

Few doubt Pogemiller’s intellect and understanding of the legislative process. It’s his personality that rubs colleagues the wrong way. Even his supporters had hoped that when he was elected majority leader, the eight-termer with a super-safe Northeast Minneapolis seat would show more smiles and fewer sneers. It hasn’t happened. He has retained the ability to offend people of all parties equally.

Remarkably, one of the big concerns among both Senate and House DFLers is Pogemiller’s open disdain of Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Critics unhappy about Pogemiller’s disdain for governor
Pawlenty frustrates most DFLers, who say they can’t understand how the governor can be so popular among Minnesotans while getting so little done as governor. But most DFLers understand that as long as Pawlenty is governor, they’re going to have to figure out how to work with him — and challenge him in productive ways — if anything is to be accomplished.

Pogemiller, his DFL critics say, doesn’t even attempt to work with the governor. In the process, Pogemiller ends up making Pawlenty look good.

“When the two are in the same room, you can feel the contempt he has for Pawlenty,” said one DFL legislator, who didn’t want to be named for fear of antagonizing Pogemiller. “I’ll tell you this: If Tim Pawlenty ends up with a national office, he should invite Senate DFLers to his inaugural ball.”

Pogemiller admits he’s not fond of the governor.

“He’s not consistent,” Pogemiller said. “In public, he comes across as this nice, caring guy. When he’s not in public, I’ve found him, ummm, not to be overly pleasant. But this is a job, not a frat party. You don’t have to like somebody to work with him.”

Pogemiller brushed off the notion that there is an undercurrent of discontent about the way he’s done his job as Senate leader. He says that the fact that a few committee leaders have been openly critical shows that he’s fulfilled his pledge to de-centralize power in the Senate.

“In this business, there are always going to be critics,” he said. “We’ve got an entire leadership team, and we’ll just keep trying to do our job.”

It appears he’ll keep his job for another session.

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