Minnesota Report

As we look at the DFL Senate Minority, we see a functional problem after the legislative session, which is it functional leaderless situation, post Senate Minority Leader Melisa Lopez Franzen (DFL-49, Edina) retirement announcement. Now, its not a wise idea to remove a leader during a legislative session, in spite of the fact the DFL did just that in 2020, ousting Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-03, Cook) for Sen Susan Kent (DFL-53, Woodbury).

It’s clear, after the DFL failed to return to the majority, Bakk and Sen David Tomassoni (DFL-06, Chisholm) picking up their bags and moving into the Republican Caucus, a sexual harassment scandal, and the decision by Kent not to seek reelection, the DFL was on its heels, and with Lopez Franzen’s pronouncement they might slide backward some more, they need a new leader.

In politics timing is everything, after two short-term serving suburban women leaders, eyes are turning back to the past and some are beginning to think the leader needs to come from a safe legislative district, which we will argue no where is a safe seat, because a successful, inner-party challenge from a left-flank is just a career ending as a general election loss.

We have discussed, the likelihood of a bid for leadership from Sen Erin Murphy (DFL-64, St Paul) who coincidentally, fits the proscribed bill, but right now she should stay where she is as the DFL Caucus Campaign Chair, which is a specialized position and right now quintessential to the DFL’s future in the Senate. Also, she already has made a statewide bid and was not chosen. So, who could emerge and when?

We will tackle the when question first. One initiative our publisher Shawn Towle had when he served on the DFL Party’s Constitutional & Bylaws Commission, was to call for automatic delegate status for state elected officials to the DFL State Convention. This means on May 13th all DFL state senators should be in Rochester for the convention. Since, the legislative session will end a little more than a week later, the caucus could meet decide and announce their leader to carry them through the summer into the fall, and in their minds hopefully to the DFL Majority. One wrinkle is Senate rules allow for any seated member of the caucus to vote on leadership but with the retirement announcements of five members Sens Karla Bigham (DFL-54, Cottage Grove), Greg Clausen (DFL-57, Apple Valley), Chris Eaton (DFL-40, Brooklyn Center), Lopez Franzen, Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-63, Minneapolis) and Chuck Wiger (DFL-43, Maplewood) and the fact they will not be factors as candidates they should abstain from making this choice.

Now, if politics were to be a betting sport, and if sportsbook were in place, bets could be placed. We think the selection for leader should come down to five questions.

  1. Perceived safe seat?
  2. Gender?
  3. Region?
  4. Best talking-head and face of the caucus?
  5. Who can provide a statewide presence?

The value of “safe” will be decided based on who has or has not a Primary challenge but that will not be fully known until May 31st. So, it’s a perceptive question.

Staying with a woman leader, in our opinion will be an advantage, women make up better than 51% of the electorate and because the Republican Party rarely advances women to front positions, sorry Sen Michelle Benson (R-31, Ham Lake), so this differentiates the DFL from the GOP.

Well, rural seats are not safe for the DFL outside of Duluth, but Sen Jennifer McEwen (?-07, Duluth) who caucus’ DFL is heading toward the DSA and as a freshman not a leadership option, so she’s out. The suburban selection has had two shots with Kent and Lopez Franzen so unless Sen Ann Rest (DFL-45, New Hope) or Sen Melissa Wicklund (DFL-50, Bloomington) want to step-up it the urban core by default.

This leaves a small field of women and to us the conclusion is Sen Kari Dziedzic (DFL-60, Minneapolis) she can speak to the concerns of women, sexual harassment, caring for an elder parent, and many other important issues across the state, and she is of more the moderate political stripe, in spite of coming from Minneapolis. If the five questions we have posed are the key questions to us the choice is clear.

If not, then political ambition might be the guiding rod in this case.