While a possible change in political control of the Minnesota House of Representatives had been speculated about for the past several months, nobody thought it likely that the leadership of the Minnesota Senate would shift from the Democrats to the Republicans. And, yet, that is the result of yesterday's elections in Minnesota. Republican legislators across Minnesota (together with their newly-elected Republican colleagues) are still coming to grips with their new-found leadership responsibilities. They will gather in St. Paul in the next few days to celebrate their success and pick their caucus leadership, including the new Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader.
We are assuming that Rep. Kurt Zellers from Maple Grove will be selected by his colleagues to be the next Speaker; the interesting races in that body will be for majority leader and minority leader, respectively. In the Senate, Senator Dave Senjem from Rochester deserves credit for his caucuses success at the polls, but that will not likely assure his election as Senate Majority Leader. He may face a challenge from one or more members of his party, including Sen. Amy Koch from Buffalo; she led the Senate Republican election effort this year. Geoff Michel (Edina) or Chris Gerlach (Apple Valley) could also emerge as challengers.
Along with controlling the legislature comes the daunting challenge of selecting committee chairs and planning for a 2011 legislative session that will be dominated by budget pressures. While the Republicans are celebrating their success at the polls, the responsibility to simultaneously field a new leadership team and develop and pass a budget with no help from Democrats is no small task. Moreover, assuming Mark Dayton is ultimately successful in the recount, Republicans have to find a way to enact a budget that he will sign. Neither the House nor Senate have Republican majorities that can override a veto.
On a more mundane, logistical level, the election results mean that every state legislator will have an office change, literally. Senate Republicans will move their offices from the State Office Building to the State Capitol, displacing Senate Democrats who, for the most part, have never served in the minority (at least since partisan labels have been used by legislators). Senate Democrats will take the offices vacated by their Republican counterparts. Likewise, House Republicans will occupy the top floors of the State Office Building, displacing their Democrat counterparts who will be relocated to the lower floors of the State Office Building.
We will provide a complete overview of the leadership of the Minnesota House and Senate in the coming weeks as those decisions are made.