Politics is driven by personality as much as policy, if not more. This session a new cast of characters will take over the four major leadership roles within the legislature. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, a union carpenter from Cook, will lead a newly invigorated Senate DFL majority. Sen. Bakk has 39 members of the 67-member body, several of them newly elected to the Senate. His major opponent is David Hann, a business consultant from Eden Prairie.
Sen. Hann leads a Senate GOP caucus of 28 members that had just tasted success for a two-year period, but lost it in an electoral rout this November. Expect Sen. Hann to provide a significant challenge to Sen. Bakk and the DFL’s agenda this session. Sen. Hann ran for Governor, briefly, in 2010 and could be positioning himself for a challenge to Mark Dayton in 2014.
Paul Thissen, a Harvard and University of Chicago educated attorney hailing from Minneapolis, will take over as Speaker of the House. His caucus of 72 members is eager to push an aggressive agenda and Rep. Thissen’s job will be to keep them focused as best he can. They face re-election in 2014 while their Senate counterparts have a four-year term before facing the voters.
Last, but certainly not least, is Kurt Daudt from Crown. He’s the youngest of the new group of leaders and is the newest to the legislature having just won election to his second term. Rep. Daudt is considered a bright and collegial individual with a business and local government background having served as a county commissioner. He and his caucus of 61 members will hold the DFL majority accountable for the decisions they make.
Two House members have resigned since the November election. Terry Morrow (DFL St. Peter) and Steve Gottwalt (GOP St. Cloud) have taken new jobs and their House seats will be filled in special elections that will be held in the upcoming weeks.