From the Mesaba Daily News, Bill Salisbury, December 28, 2018
Democratic state Rep. Melissa Hortman’s rise to the top rungs of political power in Minnesota has been a sometimes-bumpy but persistent climb grounded on her family’s religious values and her youthful dreams.
Hortman, 48, an eight-term lawmaker from Brooklyn Park, will be elected speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives, the second-most-powerful office in state government, when the 2019 Legislature convenes on Jan. 8.
Members of the newly elected House Democratic-Farmer-Labor majority chose her as speaker in November after she engineered an 18-seat election pickup that gave Democrats control of the chamber.
“I wanted us to win, not so I could become speaker. It was to do the work that we will do with (Democrats) in control,” Hortman said in an interview with the Pioneer Press. “I hope the focus is on the work of the team and not the leader of the team.”
The House DFL team’s platform calls for providing more affordable and accessible health care, paid sick time and family leave and more money for education and for roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
Hortman said DFLers hope to work Democratic Gov.-elect Tim Walz to “build a Minnesota that works better for everyone.”
That includes Republicans, who control the state Senate by a one-vote margin that will enable them to block DFL initiatives. That’s a recipe for either compromise or gridlock.
Hortman, an attorney, and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka — the Legislature’s top Republican — have already set a cooperative tone. Shortly after the election, the two quickly agreed to revive a handful of noncontroversial bills that got derailed during the end of the 2018 legislative session.
Working across the partisan divide is the “secret sauce” for getting things done in the country’s only split Legislature, Hortman said.
For the new speaker, that will require pulling her caucus away from the Democrats’ most liberal checklists that could alienate moderate suburban voters. And to avoid getting voted back into the minority in two years, she must focus the DFLers’ attention on the bread-and-butter concerns of the middle class.
“I think Rep. Hortman has pragmatic instincts that align us with what the public wants right now,” said Rep. Pat Garofolo, a Farmington Republican who was first elected in 2004, the same year as Hortman.
But Hortman and GOP leaders will be challenged to bridge some major differences. Republicans oppose DFL proposals to raise gas taxes to pay for road improvements and to allow anyone to buy into MinnesotaCare, the state-subsidized health insurance program for the working poor.