Kupec talks tax cuts, recreational cannabis as freshman state senator prepares for first session
Senator-elect Rob Kupec, DFL-Moorhead, has already participated in DFL Senate caucus functions, voted for his party's leadership, and is ready to head down to St. Paul this January to represent the residents of Clay and Becker Counties following his narrow win over GOP candidate Dan Bohmer on election night.
DETROIT LAKES — With a surprising Greater Minnesota DFL win in Senate District 4, Rob Kupec has been busy since election day, attending virtual caucus meetings, voting on his party's leadership and getting ready to join Minnesota's top legislative body.
In an interview with the Detroit Lakes Tribune, Kupec said his head was still spinning for a few days following the election on Nov. 8.
Kupec narrowly defeated GOP candidate Dan Bohmer, a retired Army colonel and nuclear pharmacist, 52.5% to 46.8% with a difference of only 1,727 votes out of 30,345 total votes cast.
On election night, Kupec said he was feeling cautiously optimistic.
"I felt like we had a really strong close on our campaign, we hit a lot of doors right at the end, and the rural numbers kind of came in first and I was like, 'wow, we're holding our own in the rural areas,' even a few of the townships went my way," he said. Kupec won both Elkton Township and Goose Prairie Township located in Clay County, 67 to 64 votes and 48 to 43 votes, respectively.
Kupec lost every precinct in Becker County, however, he ended up besting Bohmer by more than a two-to-one margin in a handful of Moorhead's thirteen voter precincts. He also maintained tighter losing margins across greater Clay County.
Following election night, Kupec said all of the 14 incoming DFL caucus members in the state senate held a virtual meeting on Nov. 9 and voted on their party leadership on Nov. 10. Sen. Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, was voted as the new Minnesota Senate majority leader . Sen. Mark Johnson, GOP-East Grand Forks, will become the new Republican minority leader following a leadership vote in the GOP caucus.
Now, with a one-vote DFL majority in the Minnesota Senate and also control over the state house and governorship, many DFL priorities may be given the green light, including: enhanced abortion protections, public school funding and recreational cannabis.
"What I've always said is that (recreational cannabis) has never been one of my top issues, but I'm not opposed to it," said Kupec. "I think it's gonna happen and I just want to make sure we do it right."
Kupec said some states have a pretty established track record with recreational cannabis and it should be easy to learn from their successes and pitfalls to learn how best to establish an entirely new industry for the state.
In a 2021 interview, Kupec's predecessor, Sen. Kent Eken, DFL-Audubon, said he opposed the recreational marijuana bill passed in the Minnesota House during their session, which doomed the bill during the one-vote Republican majority in the state senate last year . The bill was never brought up for consideration by the GOP-controlled senate.
Unless a special session is called by Gov. Tim Walz during the lame-duck period, the new legislature will need to decide what to do with the state's $9.25 billion budget surplus. Kupec said many of his constituents have said tax relief should be a priority, which is something he also supports.
"Especially eliminating that state tax on social security, I would definitely be in favor of that," he said.
Since Senate District 4 is a largely rural area, Kupec said he would like to be put on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
"I let that be known (at the caucus meeting)," he said.