Senate Republicans secretive in picking Koch replacementST. PAUL (AP) — The contest among state Senate Republicans to replace fallen majority leader Amy Koch is happening behind closed doors at the State Capitol, with most of the leading candidates not willing to publicly announce their intentions as of Thursday even as next week’s election approaches.
By: Associated Press, Worthington Daily Globe
ST. PAUL (AP) — The contest among state Senate Republicans to replace fallen majority leader Amy Koch is happening behind closed doors at the State Capitol, with most of the leading candidates not willing to publicly announce their intentions as of Thursday even as next week’s election approaches.
“You’ll know we’ve chosen someone when you see the black smoke,” said Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria, comparing the leadership race to the secretive Vatican process of picking a new pope. Ingebrigtsen told The Associated Press he’s a candidate for the majority leader job — maybe.
Koch, of Buffalo, unexpectedly resigned the Senate’s top post last week and said she wouldn’t run for re-election next year. A day later, four of her colleagues revealed they confronted Koch the night before her resignation with allegations she was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a Senate employee. Earlier this week, Koch admitted to the relationship; she has not returned repeated phone calls from the AP.
The manner in which Koch departed has heightened the mystery around selecting a new majority leader. Two leading but publicly undeclared contenders, Sen. David Hann of Eden Prairie and Sen. Dave Senjem of Rochester, also have not responded to AP interview requests. Both lost to Koch for the majority leader post last year, and they represent two factions of the 37-member caucus.
The somber Hann is a social and fiscal conservative known to spar with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, including temporarily blocking the administration from receiving a federal health care grant a few weeks ago. The more jovial Senjem is a moderate known to have good relationships with Democrats. Another potential candidate is Sen. Julianne Ortman of Chanhassen, who also didn’t return calls for comment.
They are far from the only possible candidates for what looks to be a demanding job.
The new majority leader must try to unite a caucus still new to the majority it captured in the 2010 election, and that’s now reeling from scandal. The Jan. 24 legislative session is approaching quickly and could be dominated by the Minnesota Vikings’ controversial push for partial public funding of a new stadium — an issue that has divided lawmakers of both parties, and on which several leading majority leader candidates have wildly diverging views.
Also on deck is the 2012 election, when all 67 state senators are on the ballot — including a number of freshman Republicans from swing districts. Democrats eager to reclaim their recently lost majority are sure to remind voters of the Senate GOP’s problems.
“We have to put this behind us,” Ingebrigtsen said of the Koch matter. “And I think we have to pick someone who is in a position to put this behind us.”