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Minnesota Democrats pick new House Speaker

House Democrats elected Rep. Melissa Hortman to the position of Minnesota House Speaker Thursday, Nov. 8, in St. Paul. Forum News Service photo

ST. PAUL  -- Minnesota Democrats in the House of Representatives on Thursday night elected that chamber's next speaker and majority leader in a closed-door meeting.

Rep. Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, ran unopposed for and won her caucus's support to become the next House Speaker, she told reporters late Thursday. Hortman previously served as House minority leader.

After a contested race, Rep. Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley was selected to serve as House Majority Leader.

The contest came two days after Democrats flipped 18 seats in that chamber and lost a special election for one Senate seat. The result set up a split Statehouse.

Hortman said she anticipated leaders in the Statehouse would be able to work together despite that partisan division.

"I think Governor-elect Walz, Sen. Paul Gazelka and I share one trait, we're all very practical and pragmatic people and so we are likely to find a way to solve problems together," she said.

Hortman said lawmakers in the House would prioritize unfinished business from the 2018 session when they return for the 2019 session. Her top legislative priorities included bringing down health insurance costs, addressing the opioid crisis and reducing abuse and neglect in nursing homes. She didn't say whether House Democrats would be willing to support a gas tax to fund improvements to roads and bridges.

Governor-elect Tim Walz on Thursday said he would include the tax as part of his budget proposal.

House Republicans were set to elect their caucus leaders on Friday.