In the Spotlight

News & Features
Go to Session 2005
DocumentSession 2005
More from MPR
Respond to this story

DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
New Senate minority leader elected; it's the old Senate minority leader
Larger view
Day, of Owatonna, said in September that the job had become too time consuming and took away from personal pleasures and his own legislative priorities, which include trying to build a NASCAR race track in Minnesota. The 67-year-old former salesman always had planned to stay in the Senate. (MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)
Senate Minority Leader Dick Day will continue in his leadership post, despite announcing two months ago that he was stepping down. Senate Republicans on Thursday voted to keep Day as minority leader. The Owatonna Republican says he changed his mind after some lobbying from his colleagues. He says his caucus is willing to work with Democrats in the Legislature to avoid a repeat of last session's partisan gridlock.

St. Paul, Minn. — In September, Day said he wouldn't run for re-election to lead his caucus, saying it was time for a new minority leader. He also said he wanted to spend more time with his family and on other interests such as NASCAR racing. The outspoken legislator says he was persuaded to change his mind.

"A great number of our caucus really came to me, many of them with tears in their eyes, saying, 'hey, you're the guy that can take us to the majority,'" Day said.

Day says he plans to appoint a deputy who will take over some of the internal duties of running the caucus, while Day will remain the main spokesperson. Under Day's leadership, the number of Senate Republicans has grown from 23 in 1997 to 31 today. That's the closest it's come to gaining the majority in 30 years. The Senate wasn't on the ballot this year, but it will be in 2006.

One of the Senate's four new assistant minority leaders, Geoff Michel of Edina, says Day is the right person to lead Senate Republicans as they look forward to 2006.

"The caucus looked at Dick Day, and said this guy brought us to the doorstep of the majority. And today we decided: Dick, get us through the door," he said.

Day was challenged by two other Republican senators, Steve Dille of Dassell and Dave Kleis of St. Cloud, but Day says he won on the first ballot. Day's re-election means that the major players in the Senate haven't changed heading into the 2005 session.

Senate Democrats are led by Dean Johnson of Willmar, a former Republican who was Day's predecessor as minority leader. Relations between the two were testy last session, but Day called Johnson his "buddy."

"I hope he doesn't shut my mic off again. But if he'll leave our microphones on, we'll have a good dialogue," said Day, referring to the final moments of the last session, when Senate Democrats adjourned for the year and shut off the Senate sound system as Senate Republicans were complaining about the process. The session ended with the House and Senate unable to agree on virtually all major issues.

Next session, both bodies will be closely divided. Democrats picked up 13 House seats in Tuesday's election and defeated several prominent Republicans. Day says he thinks the election shows that Minnesota voters want legislators to get along. But he says he doesn't read too much into the Democratic House gains.

"I haven't bought into that Minnesotans are all as liberal as what has come out in the last election. Because I really believe that maybe some of the races could have been better. If I was running the races, we wouldn't have lost 12 people," he said.

Day says the DFL appeared to set the agenda in some of the House races. He says Republican candidates should have been talking about gay marriage, transportation and other issues. Day says his brash style won't change, although he says he will try to tone down some of his comments. He says, for instance, he shouldn't have said, "Minneapolis schools suck," at the end of the last session. He says he should have said, in his words, "Minneapolis schools are a joke."

News Headlines
Related Subjects