MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnesota’s top two political leaders met face to face Thursday for the first time since the election.
They’re pledging cooperation, not division.
Over a luncheon of pork loin and potatoes, the Republican Speaker and Democratic Governor met face to face at the official Residence.
“It’s a little different now with me as speaker,” Representative Kurt Daudt, who will be officially elected to the post when the Minnesota Legislature re-convenes in January, said.
“We’re working for Minnesotans,” he said. “If we both remember that, and we put those folks first, that should help us stay focused on always doing what’s right.”
Republicans won control of the Minnesota House in the 2014 election, after losing control two years ago.
Now, Democratic leaders at the Capitol say the GOP needs to prove it can govern.
“Once the election is over, people need to pivot, especially leaders, need pivot to governing,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, with whom Daudt must negotiate bills, said.
Bakk says he senses a shift in tone of Republican leaders from two years ago, when state government shut down for 21 days.
“There was a pretty serious overreach in 2011,” he said. “And that’s pretty recent history.”
Republicans say their top priorities will include road and bridge repair, especially in Greater Minnesota, “fixing” MNsure, the state’s health care website, and reforming Minnesota’s sex offender treatment programs.
That’s a good start, Gov. Dayton said this week after a divisive election campaign in which he told voters Republican control would mean gridlock at the Capitol.
“The voters have spoken, and that’s why we have elections,” Dayton said.
He described the lunch meeting as “congenial.”
“They wanted a Republican House and a DFL Senate and a DFL Governor. And we’ll make that work, for the sake of Minnesota.”
Left off the lunch menu Thursday was the controversial Senate Office Building under construction behind the Capitol, which Republicans campaigned against.
The new House Speaker told WCCO he can’t stop it, but is looking at the possibility of not using it for Senators at all– instead renting it out to one or more state government agencies.
“Just because the building is coming up out of the ground right now doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do,” Daudt said. “It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at other options. And I think we are going to look at those other options.”