MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Democrats are ramping up their calls for Republican State Senator Michelle Fischbach to resign.
Fischbach is President of the state Senate, but automatically became Minnesota’s lieutenant governor when Democratic Lt. Governor Tina Smith was appointed to succeed Al Franken in the U.S. Senate. Now, Democrats say it’s setting up a Senate showdown that could shift the balance of power, including the possibility of legal action challenging Fischbach before the session begins Feb. 20.
Fischbach, a Republican, was forced by the Minnesota constitution’s line of succession language to succeed Democrat Tina Smith. She does not plan to take the oath of office, declining the lieutenant governor salary, hoping to keep her state Senate seat.
“That is a clear violation of the separation of powers,” said Senate Democratic Leader Tom Bakk, who is renewing calls for Fischbach to resign.
He says Democrats could challenge in court any close votes on important bills, unraveling the state’s already precarious budget.
“I think it is very problematic in the eyes of the court. If they rule she’s not a Senator, I think they would have to undo those votes,” he said.
Republicans say there’s precedent for the lieutenant governor holding two elected offices — 119 years ago.
Fischbach is declining all interviews, but said in December she won’t resign from the Senate.
“I was elected by the constituents of Senate District 13, and I have a commitment to represent them in the Senate,” she said after she became Lieutenant Governor, on the same day Tina Smith was appointed to the U.S. Senate.
Bakk predicts Fischbach will be forced to resign by the courts — throwing the Senate into a 33-33 tie. He’s asking Republicans to negotiate a “power sharing” agreement, but Republicans call it “a political play to take the Senate back.”
“I have no interest in sharing the leadership role. It’s either one or the other,” said Republican State Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. “Republicans have it for the second time in 46 years, and I don’t see any reason why we would want to give that up.”
Democrats are already recruiting candidates for a special election in Fischbach’s central Minnesota Senate District before there’s any court action or decision.
Minnesota’s State Republican Party is crying foul.
“In a move straight out of ‘House of Cards,'” said Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan, “Tom Bakk and Governor Dayton would rather engage in a costly lawsuit and expensive special election to try to win control of the state Senate, rather than graciously accept the offer from Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and Speaker Daudt to convene a special session to install a Lieutenant Governor the same political party as the governor.”