The DFL Senate Caucus had a meeting set for tomorrow, which was postponed by Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-03, Cook) after an email announcement by Senate Assistant Minority Leader Susan Kent (DFL-53, Woodbury) of her intent to challenge for the leadership position. We understand there is a request for dates for the caucus requested from members and they already have a retreat scheduled for February 1, 2020. We have spoken with members of the caucus and are informed the leadership conversation is a “family matter” being discussed among the DFL Senate Family. If this is family matter then the decision will be whether or not to continue as a patrilineal group or become a matrilineal group.
The DFL Senate Caucus is in a serious position being three votes short of the majority. The 2020 election is majorly significant because with a DFL governor, the state House if held, being solidly in DFL hands, the Senate if turned means holding all levers of power the DFL decides the redistricting maps for both Congress and the state legislature. The 2020 state Senate elections are paramount and because they are only for a two-year term, these “Stub Elections” will have substantial impact for the next decade.
When Bakk first became minority leader in 2011 after the 2010 election, his caucus represented 30 of the 67 seats. They regained the majority in 2013 following the 2012 election with 39 votes. The DFL lost it again after the 2016 election resulting in a 33-vote minority starting in 2017. Then the loss in a Special Election after the appointment of Sen Tony Lourey (DFL-11, Kerrick) to head DHS resulted in the current three-vote differential of 32-35.
The dynamic changes in the Senate over the last decade are quite significant. We would like to highlight a couple of noteworthy items for people to consider.
- 32 members will decide, but 17 members voting in the same manner will determine.
- There are 5 rural members, 9 urban members, and 18 suburban members.
- 10 of the members are women and 3 urban and 7 suburban.
Now, very few things are monolithic in politics especially DFL politics, which is often best described as herding cats. The fact remains the bulk of the political power in this caucus resides in the hands of the largest group the suburbanites and if they moved in a single direction as a block they can make the final call. Kent, as a member of the largest block, could have an advantage due to regional and gender demographics, but Bakk is a tough negotiator and the rise in suburban seats has taken place under his guidance. Kent did help bring about the DFL Majority with her election over Sen Ted Lillie (R-53, Woodbury) in 2012.
Kent as the challenger, appears to be like a regular suburban soccer mom, with a slight southern drawl, but with a Sally Field demeanor. Now, we don’t mean the Field of Flying Nun or Smokey and the Bandit fame, but rather the Academy Award-winning actress of the Norma Rae variety.
The question will be which leader will the caucus want to bring them into the majority and provide the voice of their caucus leading into the new decade.