Sen. Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury) defeated Sen. Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) for the role of Senate DFL minority leader during a Saturday meeting, a move Republicans think signals the party’s shift to the left.
Kent (pictured above) emerged victorious Saturday evening after the 32-member caucus met at the Carpenters Union Hall in St. Paul for nearly six hours. Bakk had served as leader of the Senate Democrats for seven years and often faced criticism for breaking with his caucus on the issues of gun control and mining. He spent eight years in the Minnesota House prior to his election to the Senate in 2002.
Kent was first elected to the Senate in 2012 but Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan thinks her leadership role will be short-lived. Republican Giuliani Stephens, the former mayor of Woodbury and a 2018 candidate for governor, announced a campaign for Kent’s seat in January.
“You know the Democrats are in trouble and scrambling when they oust leadership midstream,” Carnahan wrote on Twitter. “Susan Kent may be in leadership now, but it’ll be short-lived. She’ll be defeated on Nov. 3. Woodbury is ready for a change.”
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) said Kent’s ascent to power shows the Minnesota DFL “continues to careen way left.”
“Removing Tom Bakk as the Democrat minority leader only means their party continues to lurch towards socialism, anti-mining, anti-pipelines, and anti-jobs. Senate Republicans will continue to lead,” he said.
You know the Democrats are in trouble and scrambling when they oust leadership midstream. @SusanKentMN may be in leadership now, but it’ll be short-lived. She’ll be defeated on Nov 3. Woodbury is ready for a change. https://t.co/frGSd0HKG3
— Jennifer Carnahan (@jkcarnah) February 2, 2020
The Minnesota Republican Party said the Saturday vote proved Senate Democrats “are content with being out of touch with rural Minnesotans.”
“Minnesota DFL is marching left in a rapid fashion at all levels of government from Omar to the Minnesota Legislature. Minnesota families deserve better,” said the Republican Party.
Today, Senate Democrats proved they are content with being out of touch with Rural Minnesotans. @MinnesotaDFL is marching left in a rapid fashion at all levels of government from Omar to the #mnleg. Minnesota families deserve better. https://t.co/nL99EVRbqG
— MNGOP (@mngop) February 2, 2020
Amy Koch, former Senate Republican majority leader, said the race between Kent and Stephens “just became the number one Senate race to watch.”
This top tier race just became the number one Senate race to watch. https://t.co/giyYH47Qqx
— Amy Koch (@justamykoch) February 2, 2020
Some state representatives even suggested that it might be time for Bakk to switch parties.
It’s time for Senator Bakk and Senator Tomassoni to join the Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus. https://t.co/UwoHZfNRby
— Rep. Mary Franson (@RepMaryFranson) February 1, 2020
How long before iron range members of the minority caucus join the majority caucus? #mnleg https://t.co/h8PURGmXnd
— Kelly Fenton (@kellyfentonmn) February 1, 2020
“The last thread of common sense has just been ripped from the Democrats’ portion of legislative leadership,” said Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa). “Now Minnesota will see their radical socialist agenda running on all cylinders.”
"Katie bar the door!" The last thread of common sense has just been ripped from the Democrats' portion of legislative leadership. Now Minnesotans will see their radical socialist agenda running on all cylinders. https://t.co/XIfjaCkNtK
— Steve Drazkowski (@SteveDraz) February 1, 2020
House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) called Kent a “progressive champion” and thanked Bakk for his leadership.
Senator Kent is a progressive champion, and I look forward to working with her as the new Senate DFL leader. Senator Bakk has been a steadfast ally for working people. I'm grateful for his partnership & friendship. The future is bright for the MN Senate DFL.
— Melissa Hortman (@melissahortman) February 2, 2020
Reactions to Bakk’s ouster continued to roll in throughout the evening Saturday.
Not even a passing “thanks Sen Bakk for your leadership” line. https://t.co/qfbl5BQajN
— Gina Countryman (@gcountryman) February 2, 2020
If Bakk & Tomassoni switch parties there’s absolutely no path to majority for the DFL.
— Luke Hellier (@lukehellier) February 1, 2020
Congratulations to @SusanKentMN on becoming the new leader of @SenateDFL. We will work closely together to serve MNs from all backgrounds and regions, and win a #mnleg majority this year. Sen. Bakk has been a champion for the senate and the Iron Range, and deserves our thanks.
— Ryan Winkler (@_RyanWinkler) February 1, 2020
Irony: Lifelong union carpenter gets booted from leadership in a Carpenter's Union Hall. #mnleg https://t.co/hDq8AUmL0y
— Rob Doar (@robdoar) February 1, 2020
In case anyone was wondering the direction Dems in the Minnesota Senate are going, it is left. Far left. #mnleg https://t.co/WzY9nS3lze
— Becky Alery (@aleryrl) February 1, 2020
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Susan Kent” by Susan Kent.