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Will 2017 be repeat of 2011 division, shutdown?

ST. PAUL -- The last time during Democratic Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's term that Republicans controlled the state House and Senate, things did not go so well.

ST. PAUL -- The last time during Democratic Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton's term that Republicans controlled the state House and Senate, things did not go so well.

In 2011, the governor and legislators could not agree on a budget, so when the new budget year began the state went into a 21-day government shutdown for lack of money. The state will start 2017 in the same situation after Republicans strengthened their state House control in the Tuesday, Nov. 8, election and the GOP appeared ready to take over the Senate if recounts in a pair of races they lead go their way.

On Wednesday, Dayton said he tried to compromise in 2011 and will do the same next year, but insisted that Republicans come prepared also to compromise.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, saw the situation differently. He said voters put the GOP in charge because "they wanted a check and balance on Gov. Dayton. ... They chose compromise last night instead of giving control to Democrats."

He said Minnesota and American voters in general rejected President Barack Obama and Dayton.

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Dayton said that if he and Republican leaders fail to find solutions, "we, the legislators and myself, will have failed Minnesota."

The governor may have contributed to the GOP win by saying shortly before the election that the federal Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, no longer was affordable to a growing number of people. Republicans picked that up and campaigned against Obamacare, long one of their punching bags.

"I may have provided the point of the spear," Dayton said, "but the spear was handed to them by the failure of the Affordable Care Act."

Many Democratic and Republican legislative candidates said the cost of health care was the most-discussed issue.

Republicans celebrated their larger House majority and the first time voters put them in charge of the Senate for four years. In 2011 and 2012, they controlled the Senate for the first time in nearly 40 years.

The catch for Republicans is their candidates need to win two races that are so close that state law requires recounts.

Republican Jerry Relph leads Democrat Dan Wolgamott by just 142 votes in St. Cloud’s Senate District 14, while in the west-suburban District 44, Republican Paul Anderson leads Democrat Deb Calvert by 201 votes.

"Voters want Republicans to stop the government overreach that happened under DFL control, and give them back power to make decisions about their own lives," Senate GOP Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said. "They want us to fix the healthcare crisis. They want government to live within its means and stop spending money wastefully."

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Ironically, Hann will not be around to lead Republicans. He lost his re-election bid in the southwestern Twin Cities to a Democrat, likely because Hann opposed building a light rail line to his district.

Republicans picked up Senate seats in greater Minnesota:

-- Paul Utke upset Sen. Rod Skoe of Clearbrook, chairman of the Senate Taxes Committee, 57 percent to 43 percent.

-- Democratic Sen. Tom Saxhaug of Grand Rapids, also a committee chairman, dropped a race to Justice Eichorn by a 51 percent to 49 percent margin.

-- Andrew Lang dominated Democratic Sen. Lyle Koenen of Cara City 57 percent to 43 percent.

-- Mike Googin upset Democratic Sen. Matt Schmit of Red Wing 54 percent to 46 percent.

-- John Jasinski beat Democratic Sen. Vicki Jensen of Owatonna 58 percent to 41 percent.

-- Republican Mark Johnson got 61 percent of the votes against Democrat Kip Fontaine's 39 percent in a district long served by retiring Sen. LeRoy Stump, D-Plummer.

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-- Rich Draheim beat Democratic Sen. Kevin Dahle of Northfield 52 percent to 48 percent.

Republicans grew their House control by defeating incumbents:

-- Matt Bliss ousted Rep. John Persell of Bemidji 54 percent to 46 percent.

-- Sandy Layman booted Rep. Tom Anzelc of rural Bovey 54 percent to 42 percent.

-- Randy Jessup upset Rep. Barb Yarusso of Shoreview 50.2 percent to 49.6 percent.

-- Dario Anselmo defeated Republican-turned-Democrat Rep. Ron Erhardt of Edina

If returns hold, Republicans will have a 34-33 Senate margin. In the House, Republicans will hold a 76-57 advantage with a special election early next year to fill the 134th House seat.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, D-Minneapolis, said he was disappointed with the results.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us to heal our divisions and address the frustration felt by so many of our fellow citizens," Thissen said. "Too many Minnesotans feel like they don’t have a voice in their government and the well-connected few are getting ahead at their expense. My colleagues and I in the House DFL caucus understand that frustration."

Senate Republicans and Democrats and House Democrats may to elect new leaders Thursday. Daudt said he is seeking a second term as speaker, with Republicans due to vote on the post Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, told a post-election forum that he does not know if he will ask to be caucus leader again in Thursday's Democratic senator vote.

 

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