|THE LOOK AT THE CAPITOL|
HOUSE SPEAKER STEVE SVIGGUM of Kenyon says he knew the Republicans' race to keep control of the House, where they gained the majority two years ago, would be tight. Republican incumbents Jim Siefert, Julie Storm, and Bob Westfall lost their seats to DFL candidates, while the seat formerly held by Republican Barb Haake also went to a DFL candidate. The Republicans meanwhile defeated two DFL incumbents, Jim Tunheim and Kriss Hasskamp. But DFLers successfully defended their open seats in the Twin Cities suburbs, where many had predicted a close campaign. Sviggum says he's glad his party retains its majority, but he's still upset over the DFL money and attack ads that he believes hurt some of his party's incumbents.
Sviggum: This was beyond being mean. This was really really mean, the ads they ran as independent expenditures. And I knew it would be close, especially when we have to buck the national trend, you know, in Minnesota Mr. Gore won, Mr. Dayton won very handily.
Considering Minnesota elected a Democrat to the US Senate and went for Al Gore, Sviggum isn't complaining about the narrow majority that could bring more gridlock to legislative proceedings. House Minority Leader Tom Pugh says his caucus did spend $700,000 more than in 1998 for total campaign spending of about $2 million dollars. But he challenges Sviggum's view, saying the Republicans ran equally harsh campaigns, including ads against DFL incumbent Jim Tunheim of Kennedy, Minnesota, who they ultimately defeated. Pugh expressed some chagrin however, that Minnesota's support for Gore and Dayton did not help. Votes for Gore and Dayton weren't able to reclaim the House for the DFL as well.
Pugh: Usually in a big-turnout presidential year, a Democratic candidate winning the state, US Senate candidate winning the state, usually the House of Representatives would be controlled by Democrats. So that trend fell off for some reason here, maybe some sense of balance -- hard to BELIEVE that that's a factor -- it seems to be a result perhaps of some independence in the voters.
The Independence Party fielded 26 House candidates but didn't claim any legislative seats, nor did the third-party candidates significantly effect any votes for Republican or DFL candidates. Governor Ventura did not attend the Independence Party celebration in St. Paul, but campaigned for some of the candidates this fall, saying he's willing to be patient and seek legislative seats for his party over the next few years. Party chair Rick McCluhan says he's proud the Independence Party was able to recruit candidates who ran good, issue-oriented campaigns.
McCluhan: Our candidates came into this race with very little funding, very little time to organize their committees, and I'm really proud of the effort that they've been able to put forth and some of the creativity and innovation they brought to things.
Speaker Sviggum says retaining the Republican majority is crucial because Republicans will now have a hand in overseeing the state's redistricting, which will dictate how district boundaries are redrawn in the next legislative session. More importantly he says, House Republicans can continue to pursue their issues as part of the state's tri-partite government.
Sviggum: And we're going to be able to reduce tax burdens, fund our education adequately and with accountable language, get forward and maybe fund our infrastructure of roads and bridges, and senior prescription drugs. To do those bread and butter issues that Minnesotans want and they deserve in their lives.Sviggum pledged to work with the DFL-controlled Senate and with Ventura in order to work toward those goals.