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GOP legislative ‘losers’ and DFL ‘winners’ take decidedly different tacks

MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday
House Majority Leader Matt Dean and Speaker Kurt Zellers spoke with reporters following their party's loss of the Minnesota House and Senate in Tuesday's election.

The losers couldn’t have been more petty; the winners couldn’t have been more gracious.

At back-to-back news events Wednesday afternoon, Republican legislative leaders took no responsibility for their party’s across-the-state defeats Tuesday.

Meantime, DFLers were quick to speak of their desire to reach out not only to the GOP but to state business leaders to help resolve the No. 1 issue facing the state, finding a solution to its perpetual budget woes.

Of course, it’s easy to be magnanimous in victory and very difficult to be gracious in defeat.

But soon-to-be former House Speaker Kurt Zellers and soon-to-be former Majority Leader Matt Dean were unable — or unwilling — to be introspective in defeat.

They insisted they had the better candidates, the better message, the cleaner campaigns.  They insisted that the two controversial amendments had nothing to do with how they managed to lose majorities in both the House and Senate after just one election cycle in charge.

“If you’re the owner of a business, look forward to higher taxes,” said Zellers.

Dean suggested that DFLers will not rest until Minnesotans pay “the highest taxes in the country.”

GOP ‘outspent’

Republican leaders claimed they were outspent.

“We don’t have fat-cat donors,” said Zellers, who announced that he would not be seeking a minority leadership position.

Dean wasn’t clear if he’ll attempt to lead his party’s minority caucus.

Zellers and Dean claimed that the DFL candidates really didn’t campaign on how they’ll govern.

“They had a message of running against us,” said Zellers.

So how was it that the GOP managed to lose?

Zellers even had a bitter response about college profs in response to that question.

“It’s up to a lot of college professors [to explain the election outcome],” Zellers said. “They have to justify their big salaries.”

Over and over, the Republican leaders had excuses for their loss: President Obama won by a bigger margin than they anticipated. Their party’s internal problems created a resource shortage. The DFLers told “lies” in their campaign literature.

Ummm, weren’t there millions of dollars spent by Republicans and Republican-supporting independent expenditure groups to create literature and television ads that said pretty negative things about DFLers?

“We’re happy to draw contrasts,’’ said Zellers of the GOP advertising efforts.

Dean added, “They [DFL campaigns] were well coordinated and excruciatingly unfair.”

What of the amendments? Might they have backfired?

Zellers repeatedly said the amendments weren’t “our message.” The GOP campaign message he said was balancing the budget without raising taxes and in making the Minnesota business climate more competitive.

Apparently, Zellers and Dean don’t believe in the adage that sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Zellers and Dean warned that under DFLers, it will be impossible for Minnesota businesses to economically compete with Wisconsin, North Dakota and Oklahoma. In their next breaths, they accused DFLers of running campaigns that created “fear” among Minnesota voters.

DFL leaders stress ‘governing’

Shortly after the GOP event ended, Gov. Mark Dayton, current DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk and House Minority Leader Paul Thissen met with reporters.

Paul Thissen and Tom Bakk
MinnPost photo by James Nord
DFL leaders Rep. Paul Thissen and Sen. Tom Bakk pledged to spend the coming legislative session focused on governing.

What about all of those Republican charges?

“The time for that sort of rhetoric ended yesterday,” Dayton said. “I was impressed by what Gov. Romney said last night.”

Dayton then began reading from Romney’s short, gracious concession speech. It was about working together, ending partisan bickering, etc.

“We’re going to focus on basics,” said Thissen. “We’re going to focus on governing.”

What does that mean?

For starters, the three DFL leaders were not about to jump into any controversial issues. For example, they were immediately asked, in the wake of the defeat of the marriage amendment,  if they would push for a law that would allow gay marriage in the state.

Clearly, that sort of push is not going to happen — at least not anytime soon.

“Policy ideas are on the back shelf now,” said Bakk. “Everything is secondary to the budget.”

The governor agreed, saying that it’s time for the state “to catch its breath” before even considering gay marriage.

Dayton hinted that he may not rush to the new legislative majority with a plan “to tax the rich.”

But he was quick to add that “higher taxes [on the wealthiest] is not a slogan — that’s a conviction. How I approach that is not concluded.”

What all three said was that all four of the caucuses need time to organize and discuss priorities before any sort of plans are rolled out.

Taxes — or at least tax reform — will be on the table. Bakk said he’d already called Chamber of Commerce officials, seeking business input in how to work on solving property tax problems.

“I asked the president of the Chamber to come to us with some ideas,” Bakk said.

Mostly, though, the DFLers wanted to talk about “governing.”

“I think the message [of the elections] is that people are interested in moving forward in practical, roll-up-your sleeves ways,” Thissen said.

He even had kind words for Zellers.

“The speaker did call [early Wednesday morning],” Thissen said. “That was generous and honorable. I look forward to working with him and the Republicans.”

The DFL caucus will meet Thursday evening to “organize,” if such a thing is possible. Bakk will run for majority leader. He also said that his caucus will return to the tradition of having the caucus elect the chairpersons of the powerful tax and finance committees. (Republicans dropped that elective process.)

DFL House members also plan to caucus Thursday to select leaders. Thissen is expected to be chosen, without DFL opposition, as the speaker.

Republicans in the House and Senate will caucus later this week to select minority leaders.

Meantime, Dean said they’ll go about the business of collecting lawn signs, the final act of campaigns.

Both Zellers and Dean said they hope that many of the candidates who were defeated Tuesday will decide to run again in two years.

“Our candidates were the better candidates,” Zellers said.

Comments (28)

  1. Submitted by John Rollings on 11/07/2012 - 04:33 pm.

    Republican candidates

    Better candidates or bitter candidates?

  2. Submitted by Phil Dech on 11/07/2012 - 05:15 pm.

    I heard Dave Senjem

    on MPR today as well, and he also seemed totally at a loss as to how this happened. Further evidence of the conservative echo-chamber?

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 11/07/2012 - 08:21 pm.


      But which echo chamber? In the elections yesterday, I noticed that only some unopposed judicial elections received 100% of the vote. No matter who won any of these elections, including Bachmann in the 6th, the losers typically obtained from 40-49.9% of the votes. Somewhere the right wing got the idea that “winner take all” meant you only needed to listen to people who voted for you. The 40-49.9% of the electorate who didn’t see things your way are deemed persona non grata in the right wing mind. That’s how we got all of these Grover Norquist zombies with their “no tax pledge”, which if it is not a violation of the oath of office, comes very close to it.

  3. Submitted by David Koski on 11/07/2012 - 05:18 pm.

    How childish

    Now that the crybabies are out of power. I would like to see the party sent a packing, never to return. They should be embarrassed.

    “Dean suggested that DFLers will not rest until Minnesotans pay “the highest taxes in the country.””

    Boo hoo, what an absolute waste of our time. Leave and please do not come back.

  4. Submitted by Jean Schiebel on 11/07/2012 - 05:25 pm.

    Disagree with Zellers

    Your candidates were not better, any candidate who signs a No New Tax pledge is divisive..
    Republicans will have to wake up and smell the coffee…
    quote of the day by Mathew Dowd.
    “The Republicans right now are a Madman party in a Modern family world.”
    That pretty much says it all..

  5. Submitted by John Ellenbecker on 11/07/2012 - 05:47 pm.

    Return to the Minnesota Miracle

    Learn from history, return to the basics of the Minnesota Miracle, remove us from this reliance on property taxes and move toward greater reliance on the income tax. Minnesota’s economy and per capita income boomed after the Minnesota Miracle was implemented – those gains were reversed as Pawlenty dismantled much of the Miracle – learn from history.

  6. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 11/07/2012 - 06:57 pm.

    The GOP gave us the worst legislature in MN history…

    …and now, having been thrown out of office, they POUT ??

    This is one puerile political party !!

  7. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 11/07/2012 - 07:15 pm.

    Apparently Denial is a river in central Hennepin County

    YOU TWO DID IT. You and some of the other alleged leaders of the Republican-led legislature – Senjem, Michels, Downey, etc. YOU! Not Mitt Romney. Not Tim Pawlenty, Not even George W. Bush.

    You UTTERLY squandered two years of our legislature. The three shining accomplishments of the last two years were a government shutdown and two stupid – and now failed – constitutional amendments. (Somehow, I can’t give you credit for that budget gimmick as an accomplishment.) You were stubborn, rigid, ideological, impractical and, frankly, completely ignorant of the needs of the people of the state you were allegedly running.

    I was going door-to-door and I didn’t have to “lie” about what you had done. People already knew what you had done – nothing. And they couldn’t wait to throw you bums out.

    And don’t even get me started on better candidates.

  8. Submitted by Joe Musich on 11/07/2012 - 08:35 pm.

    Where are you ?

    Where are the defenders of the right today ?

  9. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 11/07/2012 - 09:26 pm.

    Adults Are In Charge Again

    And it shows already.

    Say, where are the usual conservative commentators on Minn Post?

    • Submitted by David Wintheiser on 11/08/2012 - 03:46 pm.

      Hard to get a rise out of the liberals…

      …when we got almost everything we could have wanted out of the election results.

      Don’t worry – John Swift and his ilk will be back soon enough. Enjoy their absence while it lasts.

  10. Submitted by John Branstad on 11/07/2012 - 09:41 pm.

    Spoiled children

    The unbelievable hubris and overwhelming sense of entitlement from these two is nauseating. They are acting like the worst kind of spoiled teenagers: always looking to blame anyone and everyone else for their own shortcomings; excuse after excuse (most dripping with delicious irony), forever victims crying that it just isn’t fair.

    The message from MN voters was very simple: buyer’s remorse. In 2010, the MNGOP sold (snowed?) voters with promises of a laser focus on jobs. Voters bought it, and were left holding a bag containing a shutdown, a sex scandal, an unwillingness to compromise, and two amendments that did nothing for jobs. When the MNGOP tried the same campaign approach this time around, MN voters rightly took a ‘fool me once’ approach and said “Thanks, but no thanks.”

  11. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/07/2012 - 10:01 pm.

    For the Minnesota GOP

    …denial ain’t just a river in Egypt…

  12. Submitted by Robert Ryan on 11/07/2012 - 10:56 pm.

    The GOP win in 2010 was due in no small part to the DFL base that had not gotten reengaged after 2008 and that was demoralized by the vitriol of the Tea Party movement. There was also a lot of stealth money put into legislative races by wealthy right wing donors in 2010. They put the marriage amendment on the ballot in order to mobilize the religious right. It backfired. The Vote No folks formed the most important and dedicated part of the 2012 GOTV effort, and in addition to beating the amendment, they ousted the GOP.

    I’ve worked around state government for going on 30 years, and I’ve never seen a more petulant, mean spirited crowd than the GOP controlled Legislature these last 2 years. It’s laughable that Zellers is accusing the DFL of being ‘excruciatingly unfair’. The party of Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, ALEC and voter suppression perfected the art of unfairness.

    • Submitted by David Greene on 11/08/2012 - 01:56 pm.

      The Legislature

      Absolutely true about the GOP-controlled legislature. I haven’t been there thirty years, but eight was enough to detect the major shift in attitude. It was utterly shameful.

  13. Submitted by Matt Haas on 11/08/2012 - 06:04 am.


    That is the only word that describes the Republican leader’s comments. One would think that Dean who got quite a push from a first timer candidate might learn his lesson about hard headed divisiveness. Then again probably not, only thing to do is keep these incompetents away from the levers of power for as long as is possible.

  14. Submitted by jody rooney on 11/08/2012 - 10:41 am.

    Imagine my humiliation

    My Congresswoman is Michelle Bachman and my Representative is Matt Dean. Please send Scotch the older the better.

    • Submitted by Sue Halligan on 11/08/2012 - 03:36 pm.

      Michele Bachmann

      She was my congresswoman too, until redistricting put me into Betty McCollum’s district. I thank a beneficent Universe for large favors. (I celebrated last night with white zinfandel; it worked just fine.)

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/08/2012 - 10:46 am.

    He had better tax the rich

    Dayton and the Democrats damn well better tax rich, that’s what we elected them to do, THAT’s only way to get our budget under control. I swear if these guys now talk themselves out of doing what they’ve promising to do… again, I’ll never vote for another Democrat. What’s the point?

  16. Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 11/08/2012 - 12:37 pm.

    The party…

    of personal responsibility, once again flatly refuses to accept responsibility.

    “Zellers repeatedly said the amendments weren’t ‘our message.'” Really? Your caucus passed those bills. You may want to run like mad away from Broadkorb, but he’s all too believable when he says the GOP caucus planned those amendments as vote-getters.

    I don’t doubt that loosing stings. Maybe when their sore butts cool from the spanking, they’ll take another look and see their own responsibility in their loss. But the national GOP message, post-Tuesday seems to be what??! and Double-down.

    Good luck with that.

  17. Submitted by Michele Olson on 11/08/2012 - 12:37 pm.

    Not really surprising

    They compromised their principles (if they had any to begin with) to please the GOP party and the Tea Party trend, and used up two years preaching a gospel of hate and inequality. It’s a slippery slope, once we take that first step; self-honesty is usually one of the first things to go. They could be minor characters in a Shakespeare tragedy. But only minor.

  18. Submitted by Carolyn Whitson on 11/08/2012 - 01:35 pm.

    Earning my “big” salary

    “It’s up to a lot of college professors [to explain the election outcome],” Zellers said. “They have to justify their big salaries.”

    Okay, I’ll do it: 1. Few people really wish to go back to 1952, or 1932, or 1832, thank you very much. 2. Turns out that campaigning on hate, xenophobia, race-baiting, and theocracy doesn’t work as well as it used to. 3. We got a good look at what a Republican-run Minnesota would look like when you shut down the government in 2011 and refused to negotiate with the governor. 4. You’re the reason my “big salary” has slipped below the 50th percentile in the nation, even though we have more students and fewer classrooms (and higher administrative salaries) than ever.
    You’re welcome.

    • Submitted by Jeffrey Klein on 11/08/2012 - 03:45 pm.

      The problem in a nutshell

      These clowns are upset about the “big salaries” of college professors – hard-working purveyors of knowledge that educate us and do the reasearch that will lead us into tomorrow – but don’t seem to lose any sleep over the actual big salaries of lying, cheating bankers and CEOs.

  19. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 11/08/2012 - 06:02 pm.

    The mirror never lies.

  20. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 11/09/2012 - 07:22 pm.

    “They were wrong”

    Senate Majority Leader Bakk was certainly magnanimous. Sadly, his familiar bluster shall have no foil for two years.

  21. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 11/10/2012 - 10:14 pm.

    Weren’t these people who said….

    “elections have consequences”. Yes they do. The voters spoke and Dean and Zellers can sit in the back and shut up now. They had their chance and were roundly repudiated. Time to let the adults take charge and finally clean up the mess that began with Ventura and accelerated under Pawlenty.

  22. Submitted by Steve Mayer on 11/15/2012 - 01:59 pm.

    Taxes tell only half the story

    “DFLers will not rest until Minnesotans pay the highest taxes in the country,” said Matt Dean, soon to be former House Majority Leader. Someone, obviously not a Republican, needs to add, “Perhaps, but let’s look at what Minnesotans get in return — the highest marks in health, education, natural resources, transportation, human services, public safety, agriculture, voter registration, and defense of our border with Canada.

  23. Submitted by Kevin Watterson on 02/25/2013 - 10:47 am.

    Anyone gone back and added up the money now that the year-end reports are out?

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