Three days after the DFL wrested away control of the House of Representatives from Republicans for the 2019-20 biennium, current House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) was chosen Friday to remain in charge of the soon-to-be minority party.
“I am honored to have received a unanimous election as the leader of the caucus,” said Daudt, who’ll be serving his fifth term.
He served as speaker the last four years.
“We feel that we’ve had a successful last four years of lowering taxes, lowering health care costs in the state of Minnesota, funding education … doing some really good things we know will help Minnesotans,” he said. “We know that the economy is doing great in Minnesota; we know it’s because of those policies. We’re going to have a big surplus in November, probably an even bigger surplus come the February forecast.
“… We’re also going to hold Democrats accountable. They made some promises on the campaign trail that we don’t think they can keep. They talked about lowering health care costs, but their ideas will actually increase health care costs in the state of Minnesota. Some of their ideas will have devastating impacts on hospitals and clinics in rural Minnesota and a lot of their ideas will reduce the quality and coverage for a lot of Minnesotans.”
The DFL flipped 18 seats in Tuesday’s elections to gain a 75-59 majority over House Republicans. However, a recount in the District 5A race that John Persell won by eight votes over Rep. Matt Bliss (R-Pennington) could change those totals. Persell, a DFLer from Bemidji, previously served from 2009-2016.
Current House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) was chosen Thursday by her fellow DFL caucus members to be nominated as the next House speaker. Her expected ascension must be ratified by the full House when the 2019 session begins Jan. 8. Lawmakers must complete their work by May 20.
Daudt said it is tough to lose when the message from voters wasn’t against them, rather it was something Republican House candidates could not control.
He used the loss of five-term Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie), whom Daudt said internal surveying showed had almost a 3:1 favorable rating in her district, to Rep.–elect Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn (DFL-Eden Prairie) as an example.
“People didn’t vote against Jen Loon and they didn’t vote for her opponent, we could see that in the polling. They literally were voting against Washington D.C.”
Daudt left a message for Gov.-elect Tim Walz and hopes to meet with him in the next week to talk about priorities and working together.
One area they differ is in a potential gas tax increase. Walz has said he would consider it, while Daudt wonders why Minnesotans should be taxed more when the state is in a positive budget situation. Daudt believes the February forecast could show a $1.5 billion or $2 billion budget surplus.
“Anybody whose first reaction is to raise taxes when we have a $2 billion surplus needs to get themselves checked into an institution,” Daudt said. “… It’s time to invest that money back into Minnesota.”
House Republicans plan to meet later this month to elect assistant leaders.
DFLers also chose Rep.-elect Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) to be their majority leader during the upcoming biennium. Winkler, who was elected to his sixth term Tuesday, served in the House for nine years beginning in 2007 before moving overseas with his family.
Rep. Liz Olson (DFL-Duluth) was elected as the majority whip.