On Tuesday night, Republicans lost control of both the House and Senate after just two years at the helm of the Minnesota Legislature. At least some Democrats are attributing that in part to the marriage and voter ID amendments.
But DFLer Steve Simon, who easily won another term representing Hopkins and St. Golden Valley, has another idea: The current Republican majority over-interpreted their win in 2010 and over-reached in their attempts to push through policies. The DFL legislators should remember that as they pursue their own legislation, he said.
“(The win) does mean a little less overt political friction, but there are still meaningful limits on what can be done,” Simon said. “It’s a different kind of limitation. It’s a self-imposed limitation.”
There’s good reason why Democratic legislators are excited. Going into Election Day, Republicans controlled the House 72-61 and the Senate 37-30. Republicans conceded that they lost both majorities in the early morning hours. The DFL needed to pick up just four seats in the Senate and six seats in the House.
"[Voters] spoke, and they spoke loudly. It was clear they wanted to see a different direction," ousted Eagan Sen. Ted Daley (R) said in an interview with Patch on Wednesday morning. "It wasn’t just a loss for Ted Daley here in Eagan … it was a wave election."
Daley was among the handful of sitting Republican senators and representatives defeated by Democratic challengers across the state. His district, which includes nearly all of Eagan and portions of Burnsville, was identified as a key swing race for control of the legislature.
Democrats swept all three closely watched House and Senate races in Eagan, but ).
In Senate District 57, a GOP-held seat representing portions of Apple Valley and Rosemount, newcomer Greg Clausen (DFL) took roughly 54 percent of the vote.
Democrats also knocked out Republican incumbents in Brooklyn Park, Blaine and Spring Lake Park.
The weight of a presidential election, the thorny issues presented by the marriage and Voter ID amendments and a state shutdown earlier this summer may have all been contributing factors in the "blue wave" that swept the state, according to newly-elected legislators Jim Carlson and Sandra Masin.
Yet not all legislators are the same shade of blue. Ron Latz—whose Senate district includes Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Golden Valley—said many DFL legislators come from suburban districts and are more moderate than those in the urban core. Both he and Simon count themselves among those moderate Democrats.
Simon said these suburban moderates will insist “the chambers don’t go off wildly in one direction or another. Meanwhile, Latz is already looking forward to implementing a budget that “reflects the broader diversity of the Legislature”—both moderate Democrats and Republicans willing to partner with them.
The speculation that the marriage and voter ID amendments played a role has many speculating about future social policy changes. For example, Simon said he’s seen discussion about legalizing gay marriage on Twitter and that he thinks the issue deserve careful consideration after the defeat of the marriage amendment.
But Latz isn’t convinced that defeat means there’s a broad consensus yet around the idea of same-sex marriage. With the state facing a structural deficit—and with ample time down the road to address gay marriage—other issues should have priority.
“It think we ought to—at least for this coming year—focus our attention on the bread and butter issues of budget instead of the divisive social issues that have been taking this attention,” he said. “We’re in control now. We’re now responsible more than ever for passing the budget and the policy responses.
That’s not to say there aren’t benefits to having unified DFL control. Making the hard choices on long-term fixes goes more smoothly when those working together agree on the principles.
“There will be a lot of hammering and head-butting, I expect. But when you’ve got an agreement on principles, it’s easier,” Latz said.