The Potluck

Two DFL state senators emerge as potential successors for Senate minority leader

By: - September 7, 2021 2:00 pm

Sen. Melisa López Franzen, DFL-Edina, and Sen. Nick Frentz, DFL-North Mankato.

Two DFL senators are running to succeed Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, as caucus leader. 

Kent’s surprise resignation last week and decision to not run for re-election has upended the Senate, coming on the heels of a decision by former Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, to step down from his role as Senate leader as he prepares a potential run for governor. 

State Sens. Melisa López Franzen of Edina and Nick Frentz of North Mankato are both running for minority leader. Sen. Scott Dibble, who previously announced he’d run, has withdrawn from the race, telling the Reformer his husband’s father is ill and he will be focusing on his family.

The next minority leader will have to guide Senate Democrats through an expected special legislative session as soon as next month while also recruiting candidates, raising money and crafting a message as the DFL tries to win the Senate majority. The Senate is controlled by the GOP, 36-31. 

State Sen. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, who was eyed as a potential candidate for the caucus leader role, told the Reformer she will instead run for campaign chair, saying she wants to lead the caucus’s 2022 election efforts.

Kent’s resignation as caucus leader came amid an outside investigation into how she and other Senate DFL officials handled a sexual harassment complaint lodged by a former Senate DFL staffer against Clay Schwartzwalter, her former campaign manager and brother of state Sen. Jason Isaacson, DFL-Shoreview. 

The former staffer, Cynthia Callais, was employed by Isaacson as his legislative aide. She now works for the teachers union. 

Schwartzwalter has denied he harassed Callais.

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Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez

Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.