ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — New Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem says he’s planning to push the legislative agenda championed by his ousted predecessor, including a focus on creating jobs.
The 69-year-old Republican from Rochester was elected majority leader on Tuesday to replace Sen. Amy Koch. She resigned amid revelations she had an inappropriate relationship with a Senate staffer.
After a day of deliberation on Tuesday, Senjem’s colleagues applauded his ability to compromise. The next day, in his Capitol Office, he called the opportunity too important to overlook.
“A deep-seeded feeling for public service; for wanting to do this for all the right reasons,” Senjem said.
His colleagues call him a great collaborator. On Wednesday, Senjem humbly said he just has a passion for public service.
Part of his new position as Senate Majority Leader could include support for gambling at horse racing tracks and keeping plans for a Vikings stadium alive.
He recently stepped forward with other leaders who confronted Koch after allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a staffer.
But now he said the group has forgiven Koch and must confront pressing issues like the economy.
“Willingness to learn and listen, I think you would find that if you go to Rochester and talk to people,” said Senjem.
That’s where his leadership began. The Rochester-native served as a Mayo Clinic administrator for more than 40 years. He’s also been Senate Minority Leader and notably co-authored a racino bill.
Senjem said he supports using some of those gambling proceeds as funding for a new Vikings stadium.
“We need to look at other options. Gaming is one of them, whether it’s racino or anything else, that seems to be available that could do it; that accrues enough money,” he said.
A stadium is just part of Senjem’s new focus of moving forward.
“More importantly, tomorrow is tomorrow,” he said.
Senjem said he’s been married for 47 years, he has a grandchild and, like many Minnesotans, has strong Norwegian heritage.
Politics is also in his blood. He said his great-great-grandfather was also a state lawmaker from Dodge County.
In the meeting to decide the next Senate Majority Leader, Senjem said the old leadership team stepped down voluntarily as part of an effort to create a clean slate. The 37 Senate Republicans voted by secret ballot, so it’s unknown how many votes were cast for Senjem.
The next legislative session opens on Jan. 24.
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