ST. PAUL – The state House’s two leaders promise to give greater Minnesota a greater say in state government once a new Legislature is seated on Jan. 6.
“Our goal is to represent all of the people of Minnesota,” state Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, said Friday shortly after being elected House majority leader. “We’re not going to leave greater Minnesota behind as has been done the last couple of years.”
House Republicans elected her and picked Kurt Daudt of Crown as House speaker. Daudt must face a formal vote on Jan. 6, but because Republicans backed him on Friday and they will have a majority in the House, there is little doubt he will be speaker.
Republicans have complained that Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov.-elect Tina Smith are Twin Cities residents and the Dayton administration has not done right by greater Minnesota.
Daudt, 41, lives on the farm his grandparents homesteaded in east-central Minnesota. He called it a hobby farm and said cropland is rented out.
Peppin, 44, is a native of Randall, in central Minnesota.
Their selections come two years after Democrats took over the House and picked Paul Thissen of Minneapolis as speaker and Erin Murphy of St. Paul as majority leader. That broke from a tradition of splitting the top two spots between greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities and enraged rural Republicans.
Rural lawmakers were even more upset when Thissen named environmentalist Rep. Jean Wagenius of Minneapolis to lead a joint agriculture and environment committee. Daudt and Peppin promised that agriculture will have its own committee the next two years when they are in control.
Daudt beat Reps. Rod Hamilton of Mountain Lake and Matt Dean of Dellwood for the speakers spot. Republicans would not say how many ballots it took to elect him.
Republicans said they are united behind Daudt.
Daudt will become one of the youngest speakers in Minnesota history and one of the least experienced lawmakers in the post. He served two years before being elected House minority leader two years ago.
“It is the greatest honor of my life to be elected by my caucus to serve as speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives,” Daudt said in announcing his victory.
Peppin said that Republicans will focus “on bread and butter issues,” with she and Daudt mentioning items such as transportation, gaining jobs and reducing state regulations.
Daudt said that the GOP caucus will meet on Dec. 2 to begin looking at more specific issues.
The speaker-designate said that people around the Capitol know him as someone who can get along with others, but “I’m going to stand up for my core principles.”
“They know they can trust me,” he added about people such as Gov. Mark Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook.
Earlier this week, Thissen was asked if he got along with Daudt. He replied: “Well enough.”
Dayton and Thissen issued statements congratulating Daudt and Peppin.
Daudt represents parts of Anoka, Isanti and Sherburne counties in the east-central part of the state. He attended the University of North Dakota and served as Isanti County commissioner before being elected to the House.
The last Republican speaker shared the UND background and first name with Daudt. He is Kurt Zellers, who this summer lost his bid to be governor.
On Thursday night, House Democrats elected Thissen to be their leader. He has been speaker the last two years when his party controlled the House.
“Thus far, we have not seen anything beyond boiler plate talking points from Republicans about their ideas for the future,” Thissen said. “We’re anxious to hear some of those ideas and hope they are not recycled proposals that put corporate interests ahead of middle-class families.”
Republicans took control of the House from Democrats in Tuesday’s election by taking 10 rural seats the DFL held and one in the Twin Cities suburbs. The party with a majority controls much of what goes on in the House, including who leads committees and what bills advance.
Republicans moved from a 73-61 minority in the 134-seat House to a 72-62 majority.