Two Iron Range lawmakers on Wednesday announced they are leaving the Senate Democratic-Farmer-Labor caucus and forming their own two-person caucus, criticizing “extreme partisanship” nationally and in Minnesota.
State Sens. Tom Bakk of Cook and David Tomassoni of Chisholm said they are forming the Minnesota Senate Independent Caucus and will become committee chairs, though they did not say which committees.
The departure will further complicate the dynamics of the 2021 legislative session. Republicans have a narrow majority that now stands at 34-31, with Bakk and Tomassoni in their own caucus. The DFL controls the House, and DFL Gov. Tim Walz will present his final two year budget before his presumptive 2022 reelection campaign.
Until last winter, Bakk had served as leader of the Senate DFL caucus before being ousted by Sen. Susan Kent of Woodbury.
“People are going to wonder why I’m doing this – and to be honest, there are several reasons.
I’m very disappointed by the extreme partisanship going on nationally and right here in
Minnesota,” Bakk said in a statement. “Both political parties are to blame. The constant negative and sharp rhetoric is undermining voters’ confidence in our public institutions. It doesn’t have to stay this way.”
Tomassoni last week was elected Senate president.
Tomassoni and Bakk say the formation of the new caucus and their roles as committee chairs will allow them to better serve their districts.
“Serving as chair of a Senate committee will allow me to better serve my communities and
deliver results for my district,” Tomassoni said in a statement. “My constituents elected me to serve them to the best of my abilities.”
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, in a statement said he looked forward to working with the new caucus.
“I welcome their announcement and the stronger realignment we will have has a result. We share the same vision of a prosperous Iron Range and will continue to work with them to fight for jobs on the Iron Range.”
Kent in a statement reacted: “The Senate DFL caucus includes a broad spectrum of views, especially as the only senate caucus with members from urban, suburban, and greater Minnesota communities, but it does not stretch as far as those who wish to function outside of our values as a caucus.”