Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, speaks to reporters on May 17, 2021. Photo by A.J. Olmscheid/Minnesota Senate 11
Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, announced Thursday she would step down as caucus leader and will not seek reelection in her suburban Senate district.
Kent, who was first elected in 2012, was the first woman to lead the Senate DFL caucus when she ousted state Sen. Tom Bakk for the job in February 2020.
In a statement, she cited the stress and the toll the pandemic has taken on her and her family.
“I’ve reflected on this over several months, and with a bit of distance since (the legislative) session ended, it became clear that I need to prioritize my family and can’t commit to another four-year term,” Kent said. “With that decision, I have also decided to step down as Senate DFL leader to give the new leader the time they’ll need to continue fighting for the shared values we all hold dear.”
Kent faced criticism in recent weeks for her handling of a sexual harassment complaint involving her former campaign manager, who was accused of harassing a former Senate DFL staffer. She previously defended her handling of the matter, and did not address it in her statement.
The announcement came on the same day an outside investigation into the handling of the complaint began.
The Senate has hired employment attorney Patricia Sifferle of Mendota Consulting to conduct the probe, according to an email from Senate Secretary Cal Ludeman.
Kent’s retirement leaves Senate Democrats without a leader 14 months before an election in which they hoped to benefit from the tailwinds of redistricting to take the majority. Republicans control the upper chamber 36-31, including Bakk and Sen. David Tomassoni, former Democrats who both caucus with Republicans.
Her departure could also create a competitive race in her suburban Senate district, though President Joe Biden carried the district handily. She is the third suburban Democratic lawmaker to announce they won’t seek reelection. The other two are Sens. Chris Eaton of Brooklyn Park and Jerry Newton of Coon Rapids.
“I respect and admire Senator Kent for her difficult decisions,” Eaton said in a text message to the Reformer. “I will miss her leadership. She has been a great leader and an even better friend.”
Newton was the first DFL senator who called for Kent’s resignation.
Senate Democratic lawmakers will elect a new leader on Sept. 13, the statement said.
Potential candidates to replace Kent include Sens. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis, Nick Frentz of North Mankato, Melisa López Franzen of Edina and Erin Murphy of St. Paul.
Dibble in a text confirmed he would run. Frentz, López Franzen and Murphy did not return requests seeking comment.
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