Saturday, November 10, 2012

Election Update.  I was watching television on Wednesday night and I saw an advertisement for something called pizza.  It had been so long since I had seen an advertisement for anything other than a political candidate that I thought there may have been a law passed prohibiting any other kind of advertising.  But now the ballots have been cast and the dust has settled.  Tears have been shed, teeth have gnashed, and the Legislature will now get down the business of governing.  Depending upon who you talk to or what news outlets you listen to (or read), you may or may not be surprised.  Nationally, political analyst Nate Silver at The New York Times never seemed to take the supposed threat to the Obama presidency seriously and his analysis was vindicated.  While the Republican majority in the United States House of Representatives was never in any danger of being reversed, many observers believed that the Democrats' 53-47 advantage in the United States Senate would, if not be lost, be narrowed.  Instead, the Democrats gained 2 seats, which was somewhat unexpected.

In Minnesota, there was some belief that the DFL would regain control of the Senate.  Going into the election, the Republicans held a 37-30 advantage, meaning that four seats needed to flip for control of the body to shift back to the DFL.  The DFL went well beyond that, winning 9 seats in fashioning a 39-28 majority.  The DFL recapturing the House was less expected (for several reasons), but the DFL won 13 Republican-held seats to turn a 70-63 (one vacancy) deficit into a 73-61 majority.

Again, there are going to be a ton of theories tossed about as to why the DFL ran so well in 2012.  President Obama ran stronger in Minnesota than most Republican strategists thought he would.  I'm not a Republican strategist, but the President ran about where I thought he would in winning by about 7.5 percentage points (I thought he'd win by between 5 and 8 points).  There may have been a time when Republican strategists believed that the turnout for the constitutional amendments would bolster their chances, but that did not materialize.  The real wildcard is that the new legislative district map that resulted from the reapportionment produced a lot of swing districts and in a year when the President ran strong, that may have helped tip the balance toward DFL candidates.

Whatever the cause, the result is clear and the newly-elected majorities are already busy at work selecting their leadership.  Senator Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) moves from Senate Minority Leader to Senate Majority Leader.  Senator Katie Sieben (DFL-Newport) will be the Deputy Majority Leader.  The Senate caucus also chose two committee chairs:  Senator Dick Cohen (DFL-St. Paul) will be Chair of the Finance Committee--a post he held before the DFL lost the majority in 2010--and Senator Rod Skoe (DFL-Clearbrook) will chair the Senate Tax Committee. 

While the overall budget situation will certainly create boundaries that may limit legislative action, I was heartened to see among the slate of leaders legislators who clearly understand the need for greater property tax equity, especially as it relates to education funding.

In the House, Representative Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis) was elected Speaker of the House last week.  He held the office of Minority Leader last biennium.  Representative Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) was elected Majority Leader.
The Republican minority caucuses also elected their leadership, choosing Senator David Hann (R-Eden Prairie) and Representative Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) to lead their respective caucuses.

The next step will be for the majorities to select the committee structure in each body to be followed shortly thereafter with the selection of the chairs to lead these committees.  After that, the membership roster of each committee will be determined.  There will likely be many happy and sad faces as a result of this process, as not everyone can get the committee assignments they covet.

I will be following (and reporting on) this process on the blog.  This is a very good time to get acquainted with newly-elected legislators, especially if they live in your school district.  Local school boards and district administrations may be holding meetings with newly-elected legislators, so check with your school district to see if anything is in the works.  Once the session starts, legislators' time becomes very precious and it becomes more difficult to have face-to-face meetings with them in a relaxed environment. 

If you have questions or comments, always feel free to contact me, either by e-mailing me through the blog or calling me at 612-220-7459.

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