If the Minnesota Senate shifts to the right, what does it mean for the powerful chamber? 

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State Senator Paul Utke from Park Rapids received a 75 percent rating by the American Conservative Union in 2021. This makes his voting record more conservative than many of his Republican-led colleagues.


This is not enough for Bret Bussman.

Bussman will be running against Utke for the Republican primary in the newly drawn Senate District 5, north central Minnesota. He is blasting Utke as a Republican in Name Only and handing out flyers to highlight the ACU scorecard .


“Font-weight: 400 It’s the voting record,” Bussman stated in an interview last week. “That’s all I tell people, and that’s how .”


It’s working so far. Bussman, a political novice, was elected to the GOP over Utke in SD5. He could also be part of an important ideological shift in the Senate Republicans this fall.

State Sen. Paul Utke


He is one of seven Republicans who are hoping to defeat a sitting GOP senator in the primary. Separately, it is likely that at least five conservative House members will join the Minnesota Senate in 2019. These developments are likely to change a GOP caucus, which Rep. Steve Drazkowski, Mazeppa, who is running for Senate, claims has been led “by a strong majority” of “very moderate Republicans.”


Drazkowski stated that if you add in the conservative Republicans, it will move the body to the right.


This potential shift in ideology is significant because the Republican Party’s political face for the past four years has been the state Senate.


The current 34 seats in the chamber are held by Republicans. This slim majority has made Minnesota’s Senate GOP the sole source of significant political power for Republicans. The 2018 election saw Democrats win control of the state House. Since 2011, the GOP has not held any state executive office, including the governor, since 2011.

State Rep. Steve Drazkowski


Drazkowski might be wrong. The DFL may have a different opinion about how politically moderate the GOP majority is since it took over the Senate in 2016. There have been clashes and brinkmanship with Democratic leaders. This includes the recent collapse in a $8 billion plan to spend most Minnesota’s historic budget surplus this fiscal year. The Senate GOP has also fired or expelled three members of Walz’s Cabinet. It has also stifled many Democratic legislation about climate change, gun regulation and reform.

Still, Republicans have made large deals with Walz, House Democrats, including a $52billion two-year state budget in 2021, and a $2.7billion plan this year to replenish unemployment insurance trust fund. Other Republicans, such as Kurt Daudt (House Minority Leader), have criticized this deal-making for being too friendly towards Democrats. Last year, the average ACU rating of Senate Republicans was 73 percent, while it was 89 percent for House Republicans.


Retired lawmakers, new primaries


Many prominent leaders are leaving the Senate GOP.


This includes Paul Gazelka, former Senate Majority Leader from East Gull Lake, as well as several other centrist lawmakers such as Sens. Julie Rosen of Fairmont and David Senjem from Rochester, Carrie Ruud, Michelle Benson, Ham Lake, and Mike Goggin all leave. Independent Sens are also leaving. Independent Sens Tom Bakk, David Tomassoni and Tom Bakk left the DFL in 2020 to join Republicans.


A large portion of Republican legislators may be leaving the country, but it is not their fault. Many of the Republican lawmakers who represent safe Republican areas are being challenged by candidates from their political right in GOP primaries.

State Sen. Gene Dornink


One is Gene Dornink, a Brownsdale Republican who was elected first-term senator. He defeated a longtime Democrat in 2020. This year, he received the GOP endorsement. Dornink will be facing off against Hayward Republican Lisa Hanson. Hanson rose to prominence after defying Walz’s orders at her Albert Lea wine bar. (She was



sentenced to 90 days imprisonment



.)


Third-term Senator Eric Pratt, a Prior Lake resident and chair of an influential economic committee, is also in the running for a primary. Pratt lost the endorsement race to Natalie Barnes (a Prior Lake nurse).


Then there’s Utke who chairs the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee and beat a Democrat to take his place in 2016.


Browerville resident Bussman trains soldiers at Camp Ripley in skills such as operating tanks. He stated that his top priority if elected would be to implement a broad set of voting limits.

MinnPost photo taken by Peter Callaghan
State Sen. Eric Pratt


Bussman is driven by the false belief that Donald Trump won 2020’s presidential election and beat Joe Biden of Minnesota. He wants to stop mail-in voting, except for the military and traditional absentee voters. He also wants to delete the state’s voter roll so that everyone can re-register. He also wants to impose strict voter identification rules, and require all votes to be reported and counted by midnight on election day.


He also wishes to make the election day a national holiday.

These measures are recommended by Seth Keshel who has endorsed Bussman. He also promotes false theories about widespread voter fraud, which have been repeatedly debunked by election experts as well as by a wide variety of Trump administration officials, including the former Attorney General Bill Barr.

Bussman also sharply criticised Republican leaders for agreeing expand email-in votin g before the 2020 election.


He argues that Utke and his fellow Republicans were far too quick to compromise and spend taxpayer funds. Bussman stated that the Senate voted 66-0 on “many many many bills” over the past two- or three years. How can this be? Everyone is expected to represent their people .”

He also condemned Republicans who passed “omnibus” legislation that combines many pieces of legislation in one bill and leaders who negotiate major deals behind closed doors. The majority of major budget legislation is passed at the Capitol as an Omnibus Bill.


Bussman stated that he was not sure if he would vote for Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) to remain the Senate GOP leader. Bussman stated, “It’s the most conservative to me, that’s who’m going for.” “Somebody who’s like-minded .”


Utke claimed that he lost the GOP endorsement due to the fact that his district lines were significantly altered after the 2020 Census, and because the voters in the new district are not familiar with him. Utke claimed that he could not make himself more known due to his long time at the Capitol.


He also supported his record and that of Senate Republican leaders by arguing that, as a majority member, he had a responsibility and a responsibility to govern. This means that he had to negotiate with a Democratic House that was pursuing its own priorities and a governor’s office. He maintains that he is one of the most conservative senators.


Utke stated that they don’t have to vote on magazine ratings or other things.


Utke stated that he and Bussman had “vast differences” about how they would approach this job. Utke said that he respects everyone and believes in a cooperative committee. Utke claimed he is an experienced legislator and accused Bussman, who he said was running on unrealistic soundbite proposals and bluster regarding issues such as southern border policy that aren’t within the legislative purview.


Utke stated that he would like to “get back in person” and opposes same day voter registration. He stated that Minnesota must “clean up elections.” He wouldn’t go so far as Bussman to deny Biden’s victory.


span style=”font weight: 400 Do we have fraud problems? Utke stated that yes, we do. Was there enough to make a difference in the election?” .”
is impossible to prove.


The ‘New House Republicans’ and other people move up


Bussman will not win. There are five House legislators who are likely to replace the Senate’s outgoing Republicans. Drazkowski is also included, along with Reps. Cal Bahr and Steve Green, Glenn Gruenhagen, Eric Lucero, and Glenn Gruenhagen.

Eric Lucero, State Rep.


Bahr and Drazkowski are members of the New House Republican caucus. They split from the traditional House GOP because they were fed up with Daudt the minority leader. (Bahr, Drazkowski had 2021 ACU score above 95 percent.


Four members of the group believe that GOP leadership is weak, corrupted and too liberal on some issues. The two Republican caucuses often disagree with each other and criticize one another. Their relationship is so bad that many Capitol Republicans view them as a hardline nuisance. They oppose spending on basic services and are motivated by social media attention. This would bring down any small GOP majority.


Rosen, the Fairmont Senator who is retiring after six terms, said that the New House Republicans were “irrelevant” in an interview he gave last month at the state GOP convention.


“It’s incredulous,” Rosen, who heads the Senate’s influential Finance Committee, said. “It’s incredulous.”

State Sen. Julie Rosen


Green, Gruenhagen, and Lucero do not belong to the New House caucus but are ideologically very close on many issues.


Drazkowski dismissed the idea that Bahr, he and others would weaken the Senate’s narrow majority. Drazkowski said that there would not be a “New Senate GOP Caucus” and praised Miller for leading with integrity and ethics, as well as including lawmakers in decision-making.


Drazkowski stated that the five new House members and possibly several newly elected senators will “bring center of gravity to the Senate caucus” and be “maybe more in the middle between where some of us conservatives are and where the ideological base for the Senate Republicans is now.”

He stated that the Senate leadership would have to adjust and possibly change their stance on some issues. Drazkowski’s website boasts appearances on Fox News with Tucker Carlson (FOX News) and One America News Network, OAN. He also has his own platform for restricting voting, but it is not as extensive as Bussman.


Drazkowski was asked his opinion on the GOP leadership. He said that he opposed “reinsurance” which uses state money to pay for costly medical bills. This program is supported by supporters who claim it lowers premiums and increases availability of plans. Yet some liberal DFLers argue the fund is a giveaway to insurance companies and a segment of conservative-libertarian Republicans contend the program is harmful to free-market health care policies.


Drazkowski called the budget agreement reached by Miller, Walz, and House Speaker Melissa Hortman — that was never finalized — “horrible.” The New House Republicans are long opponents of Omnibus Bills, arguing that most of them are unconstitutional.


A new dynamic within the Senate


Amy Koch is a Republican political strategist who was formerly the Senate Majority Leader in 2011. She said that lawmakers like Drazkowski are likely to hold some power.


She likened the new wave to the time when Republicans won the majority of the Senate in 2010. Tea Party enthusiasm drove this new wave of legislators, which included lawmakers who opposed government spending and new taxes proposed at the time by the Gov. To fill a budget gap, Mark Dayton was appointed. In 2011, the Senate GOP and the House had majority support. However, the Senate GOP was unable to negotiate a budget for the state after a 21-day shutdown.


Koch stated that the caucus was primarily made up of inexperienced legislators, while the House members who are entering the Senate can benefit from their experience and make an impact. Koch stated, “This crew is an experienced, vocal group that kind of… thinks outside of the box, works outside of the box.” It’s a vocal, experienced group who is coming to the Senate via the House span>


Koch stated that Drazkowski and Bahr don’t look the same as Rep. Erik Mortensen, a Shakopee lawmaker who was in Drazkowski’s political orbit, but who was expelled from the New House Republicans.

Koch identifies Mortensen as an extreme example of a Republican strain that is focused on clickings and not the advancement of the conservative agenda. He introduced a failed resolution to impeach Walz in the DFL-led House in 2021.


She described Drazkowski as having “fundamental very conservative ideas about what government should or shouldn’t do.”


She said that the answer is “very very little.”


Despite Rosen’s criticisms about New House Republicans, she stated that she was not concerned about the Senate GOP’s future ability to govern.


“What’s best for this state isn’t the logger jam that (New House Republicans) want to create.” “What is best for the state is not this logjam that (New House Republicans), want to create .”

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