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House DFL to keep Hortman as speaker as Republicans replace longtime leader

Rep. Lisa Demuth, a central Minnesota Republican, will be the first Black woman to lead a caucus in the Minnesota Legislature. Meanwhile, House DFLers announced Thursday night they’d keep Hortman, a representative from Brooklyn Park, as speaker of the House.

The Minnesota House chamber is packed with state representatives and senators Wednesday night, Feb. 22, 2017, gathered to elect University of Minnesota regents. Don Davis / Forum News Service
The Minnesota House chamber is packed with state representatives and senators Wednesday night, Feb. 22, 2017, gathered to elect University of Minnesota regents. Don Davis / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — The Democratic-Farmer-Labor majority in the Minnesota House has voted to keep Melissa Hortman as speaker as Republicans in the chamber look to new leadership for their caucus.

After a closed-door meeting Friday, Nov. 11, the 64-member House Republican Caucus announced that Assistant Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, will serve as its next minority leader. She’ll replace current Minority Leader Kurt Daudt when lawmakers return to the capitol Jan. 3, 2023.

Demuth, who represents a district in central Minnesota southwest of St. Cloud, will be the first Black lawmaker to lead a caucus in the Minnesota Legislature, though she downplayed the milestone while addressing reporters Friday at the State Office Building in St. Paul.

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Rep. Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring

“I have never led on the fact that I’m a Black woman first. First, I introduce myself: who I am, what I bring, and what I can learn,” said Demuth, who was just elected to her third term. “And then, yes, I happen to be a Black woman born in the late '60s in my district. I now have that opportunity to continue serving my district, so I look forward to it.”

Republicans have been in the minority in the House since 2019. The DFL maintained its majority in the 2022 election and is set to hold 70 seats in the 134-seat chamber. Democrats now control the House, Senate and Governor’s office, meaning Republicans won’t be able to stop them from passing legislation on big issues like abortion or creating a paid family and medical leave program.

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Republican Minority Leader Daudt won reelection to his seat, but is stepping down as leader at the end of this year after 10 years of leading his caucus. House GOP priorities will likely remain the same under new leadership, though they still won’t have much of a say on the agenda.

"House Republicans will continue to keep the focus squarely on the priorities of Minnesota families — public safety, tax relief, and keeping energy costs low,” Demuth said. “We will work with Democrats when it's in the best interest of Minnesotans, but will not hesitate to point out when they bring bad ideas to the House floor."

Demuth did not offer many specifics to reporters Friday on issues like codifying abortion rights in state law and legal recreational marijuana, which Democrats could very likely pass in the coming year.

“We are definitely going to have those conversations to see where we want to head, but what I can tell you is we are a pro-life caucus,” she said.

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House Democrats first elected Rep. Melissa Hortman to the position of Minnesota House Speaker Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in St. Paul.
Forum News Service file photo

Meanwhile, House DFLers announced Thursday night that they’d keep Hortman, a representative from Brooklyn Park, as speaker of the House. They first elected her to that position in 2018.

“The Minnesota House DFL Majority is looking forward to working with Governor Walz and the incoming Senate DFL majority to protect reproductive freedom, invest in our public schools, make health care more affordable, and to build an economy that works better for everyone,” Hortman said in a statement.

Other House priorities include climate action, gun control legislation, and legalizing recreational marijuana. Hortman told reporters late Thursday her caucus supports adult-use cannabis and that she believed they would pass the bill.

Besides backing Hortman for speaker, the House DFL Caucus plans to make Minneapolis Rep. Jamie Long majority leader, replacing outgoing leader Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley, who ran for Hennepin County attorney this year rather than for House. St. Paul Rep. Athena Hollins will serve as the Majority Whip.

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The final makeup of the House is yet to be determined, as two seats DFLers narrowly lost on northeast Minnesota’s Iron Range are subject to recounts. But even if those results change, the DFL will keep its majority.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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