Updated: November 18, 2020 05:49 PM
Created: November 18, 2020 09:02 AM
State Senators Tom Bakk and Dave Tomassoni announced they are forming a new Minnesota Senate Independent Caucus. Bakk is from Cook, and Tomassoni is from Chisholm.
The Northern Minnesota legislators say the new Independent Caucus presents an opportunity to chair committees and makes sense to better serve their districts within the legislative framework.
Tomassoni told WDIO, "I don't have any plans to leave the DFL party. Leaving the caucus, that was necessary for us to do, to be able to have chairmanships."
“People are going to wonder why I’m doing this – and to be honest, there are several reasons. I’m very disappointed by the extreme partisanship going on nationally and right here in Minnesota,” Senator Bakk said. “Both political parties are to blame. The constant negative and sharp rhetoric is undermining voters’ confidence in our public institutions. It doesn’t have to stay this way.”
“We have worked across party lines our entire careers,” Senator Bakk said. “David and I have always voted our districts. We have always represented our districts as bipartisan and moderate members of the legislature. Forming this new caucus is just a natural progression of aligning more with moderate than the far right or left. Additionally, we will not stray from the values of Northern Minnesota and what our people are most passionate about -- our economy and jobs that support our families and our economic lifeline of mining and wood products. Our natural resource-based economy is critical to our region of the state.”
Last week Tomassoni was voted to serve as President of the Senate on a bipartisan vote of both Democrats and Republicans. This is the first time in Minnesota history that there is a President elected from a minority party.
“Serving as chair of a Senate committee will allow me to better serve my communities and deliver results for my district,” Senator Tomassoni said. “My constituents elected me to serve them to the best of my abilities. The Iron Range has provided the ore that has forged the steel that has made the bridges of America. If we expect to actually bridge the partisan divide, someone must take a proactive step to build such a bridge. I consider this to be a positive approach in an attempt to move away from the negative and partisan rhetoric while continuing to fully support our way of life on the Iron Range.”
Tomassoni added, “People in the last election made it pretty clear that they wanted us to work together. For me that means a path forward to solving our economic and pandemic crisis in a bipartisan fashion.”
So what does this mean for constituents? Dr. Cindy Rugeley, an associate professor of political science at UMD, said, "I don't think it's going to change the way they represent their districts. It does give them the chairmanships, which means more staff and resources. And more authority."
She said it will become important when it comes to selecting leadership of the senate and of course, during votes. "How they vote does matter, on contested votes, are they going to vote with the Democrats or the Republicans?"
Both men ran as Democrats in the most recent election cycle. As for re-election, Rugeley said it's up in the air about how this will affect the next cycle for the two men.
On Wednesday, Senate DFL Leader Susan Kent released the following statement:
"The Senate DFL caucus includes a broad spectrum of views, especially as the only senate caucus with members from urban, suburban, and greater Minnesota communities, but it does not stretch as far as those who wish to function outside of our values as a caucus. The Senate DFL is focused on working hard to get this pandemic under control, get Minnesotans back to work and school safely, and eradicate our state's horrific racial disparities. We appreciate their service and look forward to working on behalf of all Minnesotans with all of our colleagues in the future."
Republican Party of Minnesota Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan released the following statement:
"The DFL has abandoned Greater Minnesota and we applaud Senators Bakk and Tomassoni for doing to the same to the DFL. Time and time again we've seen that the Minnesota Democrats dismiss and denigrate the people who live outside of the metro and now they are paying the price. Whether it's their embrace of the defund the police movement or their failure to condemn rioters we've seen that the DFL is a metro-centric party that serves the interests of the their radical Leftist base."
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