University-area senator to be majority leader

by Courtney Blanchard

University-area Sen. Larry Pogemiller will be the next majority leader of the DFL-controlled state Senate.

Pogemiller represents Senate District 59, the area covering the University’s Minneapolis campus.

Pogemiller is an outspoken leader in the DFL caucus and is known for his leadership and tenacity. One of Pogemiller’s new responsibilities as majority leader will be to set the legislative agenda for the Senate and work with Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis.

Elected to the Senate in 1982, Pogemiller is currently chairman of the Taxes Committee, where he has earned a varied reputation among his colleagues.

Many Republican senators, like fellow tax committee member Warren Limmer, describe Pogemiller as “intense.”

“Larry can’t work with members of the opposite party, he demands his own way,” Limmer said.

Limmer said this friction is due just as much to conflicts between rural and urban areas as conflicts between the two parties. He speculated that Pogemiller’s interests as majority leader may clash with members of his own caucus, such as conservative DFLers from rural districts.

Despite the political enmity, Limmer insisted there was no personal animosity between the two.

“He’s a smart man, witty in his own right, and I think we just like to sharpen our wits with each other,” he said.

Outgoing Sen. Will Belanger, R-Bloomington, has been the ranking minority member on the tax committee since before Pogemiller became chairman. He was defeated by DFLer John Doll of Burnsville in the midterm election.

Belanger recognized clashes between Pogemiller and Republican senators.

“I just hope that my Republican colleagues meet him halfway,” he said.

Belanger said he and Pogemiller fought constantly the first year Pogemiller was chairman of the committee.

“I looked back at the year and realized we had accomplished nothing,” he said.

After that, Belanger said the two developed a great working relationship and were able to move legislation based on compromises between what the DFL caucus, Republican senators and the governor would accept.

“He worked pretty well with me,” Belanger said.

Even though both houses of the Minnesota Legislature are now held by the DFL, there are enough Republicans to uphold a veto by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. To avoid political gridlock, cooperation between the parties is still necessary.

Pogemiller could not be reached, but said in a statement he was willing to work with both sides of the political spectrum.

“I will always be willing to hear the concerns brought to me not only by my DFL colleagues but also by members of the GOP as well,” the statement read. “If it’s one thing we heard this election year, it is that Minnesotans are tired of partisan politics,” the statement said.

DFL Rep. Phyllis Kahn, who represents the campus and surrounding area in the House, said she was excited to see her Minneapolis colleague take the reigns in the Senate.

“He’s really smart, and he understands the issues of negotiations,” she said.

Despite those who criticize Pogemiller for being too partisan, Kahn said he can get along with people who are very different from him politically.

“(This) is going to be really important in leadership these days,” she said.

After the state government shutdown of 2005, public opinion of Minnesota lawmakers fell dramatically; it looked as if legislators just couldn’t get along or work on deadline, Kahn said. She said Pogemiller explained the situation better than anyone else she had heard.

“He said, ‘That’s not really true, there were really strong philosophical differences about what to do,’ ” she said. “That’s just something that doesn’t get resolved easily, and it takes a while to resolve it.”