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Tom Bakk defeated by Susan Kent to lead Senate DFL caucus

Feb 02, 2020 05:24AM ● By Editor
Senate Minority leader Tom Bakk (center) and Sen. Susan Kent (far right) appeared together in December 2019 to announce a DFL clean energy and climate caucus. Kent has defeated Bakk in a bid to lead the Senate DFL caucus.  Photo: Tim Pugmire | MPR News 2019

By Tim Nelson of Minnesota Public Radio News - February 1, 2020

Democrats in the Minnesota State Senate have picked a new leader.

On Saturday the Senate DFL caucus selected Sen. Susan Kent of Woodbury to serve as minority leader, replacing Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook. Kent is the first woman to lead the caucus. It’s also a major shift from Bakk, who represents a rural district in northern Minnesota, to Kent, whose district is in the eastern suburbs of the Twin Cities.

“It is my privilege to have been as the elected leader of the Senate DFL caucus,” she said in a brief statement after the meeting. “This is an important year. We have a lot of important issues facing Minnesotans and we are committed to working hard to deliver for those people and our communities and have a successful election in November.”

Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, speaks in support of paid parental leave during a state employee union news conference in 2017.  Photo: Tim Pugmire | MPR News 2017

The DFL caucus announced the decision after a marathon six-hour meeting Saturday at a carpenters’ union hall on St. Paul’s East Side, not far from the Capitol, where they were meeting behind closed doors.

Senators declined to offer a vote total or characterize the margin of the election as they walked out. Bakk left the meeting without comment about the change or his political future.

In a statement issued Saturday evening, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said Kent “is a progressive champion, and I look forward to working with her as the new Senate DFL leader to improve the lives of Minnesotans. In his many years in the Legislature, Senator Bakk has been a steadfast ally for working people. As my partner and leader of the DFL Senate, he has been a trusted resource and friend. He deserves our gratitude and appreciation for his service.”

While it’s been controlled by Republicans in recent years, the Minnesota Senate has long been a DFL stronghold; it’s known for the relative longevity of its leadership. The Minnesota Senate has had only six DFL caucus leaders in its history, most of them majority leaders.

Bakk, from Cook, had led Senate DFLers, in the majority and minority, since 2011. He’s been the minority leader for the last four years. Republicans hold a 35-32 majority in the senate, led by Paul Gazelka, a three-term GOPer from Nisswa.

Bakk has been in the legislature since 1994, and was elected to the Senate in 2002.

Kent was first elected to the Senate in 2012, beating incumbent Ted Lillie by a 1,924-vote margin. She narrowly beat Republican Sharna Wahlgren in 2016, by just 399 votes — less than 1 percent.

She announced her challenge to Bakk in December. Earlier this week, Kent drew another potentially strong Republican challenge in her own district — from former Woodbury city council member and Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens.

The Senate is set to convene for the 2020 legislative session on Feb. 11. All 67 senators will be on the ballot in November, for 2-year-terms, halved by decennial redistricting following this year’s U.S. Census.

To read the original story and read related articles follow this link to the MPR website.

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