It’s been a bad year for former Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, capped by a particularly bad week.
On Wednesday, Michael Brodkorb, the staff member with whom she had the relationship that cost her the leadership post, was involved in a serious car accident.
Brodkorb’s condition has improved, and he’s been communicating with friends and families via text messages. Koch declined to comment on the current status of their relationship.
But, the accident will strengthen the blame game for Republicans who want to trace the source of their recent problems to the Brodkorb-Koch affair.
Koch, in an interview Friday, was in a mood to fight back, clear the air and vent frustrations about her party’s ineffectiveness.
“[Minnesota] Republicans are a Blockbuster Video in a Hulu world,” she said.
“Our business model is outdated. How you’re delivering it needs to be fundamentally changed. The DFL is ahead on data [and] social media,” she said. “And yet, [Republicans] we’re ready to point the fingers at everybody and say, ‘This is where it all fell apart.’ ”
Republicans, Koch said, still have a path to relevance both during the legislative session and the 2014 elections.
“There are so many talented people,” she said. “Everybody has faults, nobody’s perfect, me least of all, but find what they’re good at and build people up.”
Koch maintains that even though Republicans are in the legislative minority, they can still be players in the budget process.
“We are fundamentally a fiscally common-sense state,” she said, so Republicans should offer an alternative budget and focus on spending and tax reforms.
She had specific recommendations: “Take away the sales tax on capital investment and pay for it by cutting programs like JobZ [a program initiated by then Gov. Tim Pawlenty that offers tax relief to specific industries and regions].”
Republicans have an opening to challenge Governor Dayton’s budget proposal, Koch said, because “I think it will be a hard sell. It’s too broad.”
As once-powerful people often do, she reflected on the glory days of her caucus, after the 2010 elections, when Republicans took control of the Senate and the House.
“It wasn’t an accident, it wasn’t a fluke what happened in 2010,” she said. “We were a team, if we can find a way to get back to that.”
Koch agrees with the view that her status as the first woman to serve as Senate majority leader influenced the way the Republican caucus handled her resignation.
“There was a gender component,” she said.
On Dec. 16, 2011, the day after Koch announced in a statement that she was stepping aside as majority leader, four male senators staged a news event at which they proclaimed surprise and shock at learning of the Koch-Brodkorb relationship. Many women legislators say reaction to the resignation would have been different had the leader in question been a man.
For the time being, Koch has ruled out running for office again. Divorced, she has bought and manages a bowling alley in Maple Lake near Buffalo.
“I don’t bowl,” she said with a chuckle. “But I really like the people I have working for me.”
And she’s a hands-on manager. She was at work when the 10 o’clock news was airing reports of Brodkorb’s accident. Her patrons, she said, gave her a sympathetic nod, as if to say, “This, too, shall pass.”