ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Lawmakers narrowed down Tuesday the field of candidates for the University of Minnesota’s governing board but couldn’t agree in two of the five contests.
Members of the House and Senate higher education committees planned to recommend five candidates for the 12-member Board of Regents — which sets tuition and policy at the state’s flagship college — to the joint Legislature, which will likely make final choices later this month. They did that for three out five open seats, choosing two newcomers and an incumbent.
But a lack of consensus led to separate recommendations for the seats representing the state’s 1st and 3rd Congressional Districts.
That included a nod for Patricia Simmons, a regent finishing her second six-year term. Regents don’t typically serve longer than that, but Simmons noted there’s no law barring the practice. The recently retired Mayo Clinic doctor said she only considered running after another female doctor connected to the hospital system dropped out.
Simmons said she doesn’t think legislators will worry about her tenure when they make their final decisions.
“It didn’t seem to be an issue tonight,” she said.
Most of the support for Simmons came from Senate Democrats. Their party will have a 101-to-100 edge in votes when the Legislature meets to choose regents. House members, most of them Republicans, recommended Worthington businessman Randy Simonson to represent the 1st District.
The vote split down party lines again in the race to replace 3rd District representative David Larson, who died last fall. Senate higher education committee members chose Hennepin County Medical Center medical director Michael Belzer; the House picked public relations professional Paula Prahl. Whoever wins that seat will serve the remaining two years of Larson’s term.
Winnowing down the list of candidates for other seats was easier. Michael Hsu, president of a golf reservation company, and longtime funeral home director Tom Anderson won nods.
Legislators also endorsed board chair Rick Beeson for a second term. He said he’ll focus on affordability, diversity and the school’s medical program and academic health center if he remains.
Most candidates said they would prioritize reducing tuition at the university if chosen to serve. Many also said the university needs to find more ways to make money from its research.
Tuesday’s recommendations aren’t binding, and legislators can add candidates to the mix when they make their final votes.
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