Election Notebook: Gay Marriage Not On Top Of DFL List

Thissen and House DFLers

Democrats played down any plans to allow gays to marry Wednesday, the day after they took control of the state Legislature and voters defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have prevented same-sex marriages.

While Minnesotans rejected the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages, with 48 percent voting yes, a state law remains on the books that does the same thing.

Many Democrats, led by Gov. Mark Dayton, opposed the amendment. But on Wednesday they would not commit to overturning the law.

Senate DFL leader Tom Bakk of Cook said the state’s budget situation is so serious that he thinks any such policy decisions should be delayed. House DFL leader Paul Thissen of Minneapolis would not go that far, but agreed budget work must come first.

In a radio interview, even the most outspoken same-sex marriage opponent, openly gay Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis, said he did not know if it was time to move forward with changing the law.

The other proposed amendment on Tuesday’s ballot also failed. It would have required voters to show photo IDs, a Republican attempt to stop voter fraud. It gained 46 percent support.

Democrats control delegation

The Minnesota congressional delegation will lean heavier Democratic next year.

Republican U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack conceded to Rick Nolan early Wednesday in the U.S. House district taking in the northeastern quarter of Minnesota, giving Democrats five of the state’s eight U.S. House seats. Minnesota’s two senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, also are Democrats.

Nolan, who served in Congress 30 years ago, won 54 percent of the vote in a surprisingly strong showing.

The last congressional race to be determined left Tea Party icon Rep. Michele Bachmann in office. The Republican edged first-time candidate Democrat Jim Graves 50.45 percent to 49.27 percent.

Other U.S. House incumbents won by comfortable margins: Democrat Tim Walz in southern Minnesota, Republican John Kline south of the Twin Cities, Republican Erik Paulsen in the western Twin Cities, Democrat Betty McCollum in the eastern Twin Cities, Democrat Keith Ellison in the Minneapolis area and Democrat Collin Peterson in western Minnesota.

Klobuchar had no trouble beating under-funded Republican Kurt Bills: 65 percent to 31 percent.

Lawmakers ousted

Most of the 15 Minnesota state legislators who lost re-election bids Tuesday were short-timers, many in their first terms.

But among the those who lost were two committee chairmen and Sen. Ted Lillie, R-Woodbury, an assistant GOP leader. After district lines were redrawn early this year, Lillie moved to Woodbury in an attempt to retain his Senate seat.

Also losing was Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. He and Sen. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, were paired in a new district, one that included territory Koenen had served as a House member.

Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, was chairman of the committee that recommended public works projects; he served seven terms. He lost to Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, after they were thrown into the same Bemidji-centered district.

Persell is in his second term.

Democrats won two other Bemidji-area districts after redistricting pared them with incumbent Republicans. Rep. Tom Anzelc beat Carolyn McElfatrick and Sen. Tom Saxhaug defeated Sen. John Carlson.

Pending a recount, the House will have 42 new members, 27 DFLers and 15 Republicans. Eight former lawmakers also are returning to the House.

Twenty-three new senators — 14 Democrats, nine Republicans — were picked Tuesday, a mixture of totally new legislators, ones who moved from the House and some who had left the Legislature and are returning.

Leaders’ elections set

New Democratic legislative leaders are due to be elected today, two days after they took control of the state House and Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, indicated Wednesday he will run for majority leader, the top Senate position. No one else was known to be running.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said he is running for speaker, also without known opposition.

The House majority leader job, No. 2 to the speaker, will be contested between Reps. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, and Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul.

Current Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said he would not run for a leadership position after his party lost the House majority. However, House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said he is considering running for minority leader.

Other election tidbits

— Minnesota’s vote total of 2,938,947 (with nearly all precincts reporting) is a new record. That compared with four years ago, the last presidential election, when 2,921,147 voters participated, the secretary of state’s office reported.

— Reilly Goodwin of Minneapolis spoke for some youth at the Democratic post-election gathering: “Obama’s win tonight means so much to my generation because it tells us our voice counts.”

— All three Minnesota Supreme Court justices up for election won, with 55 percent to 60 percent of the vote. Returning to the bench are Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea, Justice David Stras and Justice Barry Anderson.

— Two legislative election recounts are planned. Out of 21,322 votes cast, Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, leads DFLer Bob Cunniff by one vote. Also, Democrat Kevin Dahle leads Republican Mike Dudley by 82 votes in the Northfield area. The State Canvassing Board will decide details of the recounts when it meets Nov. 27.

Free-lance writer Marti Owings contributed to this story.