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DFL power grab won’t change approach

Local Republican legislators know things will be different in St. Paul next year with the DFL in full control, but their goals remain the same

November 8, 2012
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - Chris Swedzinski, Paul Torkelson, Joe Schomacker, Rod Hamilton and Gary Dahms all won re-election Tuesday night but will find themselves in the minority come January.

That's because the DFL has won back control of the Minnesota House and Senate for the first time in more than two decades. DFLers picked up 10 seats in the House and nine in the Senate.

"It was a good night, but after you get out of our area, our races, it gets pretty ugly for the Republicans," said Dahms, who held off a solid challenge from former legislator Ted Suss of Lucan in Senate District 16. Dahms ended up winning the race with 53 percent of the vote. "But this is part of the process; this is the hand we've been dealt, and we will work hard to work together and get things done for rural Minnesota."

Republicans returning to St. Paul will continue to butt heads with Gov. Mark Dayton on taxes and spending, but now they will be outnumbered.

Thanks to the shift in power, Dayton will foreseeably have a much easier time fulfilling his promise to raise income taxes on Minnesotans who make the most, as a way to tackle another projected budget deficit.

"We're more than likely going to see a tax increase," Swedzinski said. "I think fundamentally my biggest goal is to get on some committees that really serve the area - that will be my first focus, trying to get on the ag committee, higher ed committee to represent the district in those areas."

Southwest Minnesota as a whole continued its Republican tradition and welcomed the area's newest legislative member, Bill Weber, who won a close battle against Alan Oberloh for the District 22 Senate seat.

On the flip side, District 17 - Swift, Chippewa, Kandyohi and Renville counties - went to the DFL with Andrew Falk winning re-election in 17A and Mary Sawatzky unseating Bruce Vogel in 17B. The District's Senate seat went to Lyle Koenen, a DFLer from Clara City, who defeated Joe Gimse by 11 percentage points.

Swedzinski defeated Al Kruse of Marshall with nearly 57 percent of the vote Tuesday in the District 16A race, and while he knows that as a Republican he will now face more challenges in St. Paul than he may have the last two years when the GOP was in control, the make-up of the Legislature doesn't change how he approaches his service to his district.

"I'm hoping it's an ag-friendly caucus," he said. "We're out here in southwest Minnesota, and we've got unique needs that are vastly different than other parts of the state. A lot of things depend on what leadership will focus on, but it's my job to work with folks on both sides of the aisle and work for business development in southwest Minnesota.

"There are many different ways to get the job done," he added. "Being in the majority, it's obviously easier because you have a little bit more ability to get things done. In the minority, obviously you've gotta go through more steps to get through the same process.

Dahms, too, recognizes the new dynamic that will come in 2013 but said when it comes to things like agriculture and the environment, legislators from opposing parties are more likely to work together to get things done for their rural districts. Plus, Dahms said, more than 70 percent of the bills he has been a part of had a bipartisan author.

"A lot of times you will find it will be a rural Republican and a rural Democrat negotiating with or against the suburban Republican or Democrat," he said. "When you get into ag and the environment and natural resources, you all have the same common goal - you want to keep the environment clean and keep our natural resources, but you also want to get businesses going and keep streamlining the permitting process."

Torkelson had two challengers in 16B but won by nearly 24 percentage points over his closest challenger, DFLer James Kanne. Independent Jerry Pagel garnered 11.5 percent of the vote. 16B includes all of Brown County, most of Redwood County and four precincts in Renville County.



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