Senators react positively to Dziedzic as majority leader

The University’s senator was elected by her caucus to be the party’s leader for the upcoming session.

The+rotunda+of+the+Minnesota+State+Capitol+Building+on+Saturday%2C+March+13.

Alice Bennett

The rotunda of the Minnesota State Capitol Building on Saturday, March 13.

by Alex Steil

Kari Dziedzic’s (DFL-Minneapolis) election as incoming Senate majority leader for the upcoming 2023 session was welcomed by senators in the month after her announcement.

Dziedzic was elected to the Senate by a special election in 2012 and has held one committee leadership post, becoming the ranking minority member on the Housing and Finance Policy Committee in the past legislative session. Dziedzic replaced Sen. Melisa López Franzen (Edina) as the DFL leader.

“Senator Dziedzic is a wonderful person,” Sen. Bobby Joe Champion (DFL-Minneapolis), who will be the first Black Senator to be the president of the chamber, said. “She’s always been known as a hard worker, a balanced thinker … From a legislative perspective, she’s thoughtful and deliberative.”

Dziedzic’s district encompasses both the University of Minnesota and Augsburg University, and she has been an outspoken advocate for housing and other student-centered issues such as food accessibility on campus.

“She just called me yesterday and was asking some questions about higher education,” Greg Clausen (DFL-Apple Valley), retiring senator and chairman of the Regent Candidate Advisory Council, said.“I have found her to be very knowledgeable because she definitely has an interest.”

The Senate DFL has yet to release any committee information or policy objectives for the upcoming session, but the Minnesota Daily spoke with legislators who mentioned broad policy goals they imagine the chamber will focus on.

“Ongoing equity and inclusion at the University and the student body and campus safety is certainly a concern,” Clausen said. “The student tuition increases, that’s an issue. Those are three major ones that come to mind right away.”

The state is also projected to have a $17.6 billion surplus, nearly doubling the $9.25 billion surplus from earlier this year. The Democratic trifecta in all three chambers will likely lead to more responsive requests, at least for University funding.

The party will discuss in the coming weeks specific higher education policy for this session. The higher education package last year failed to gain support in the Senate, which meant certain proposed changes were not signed into law, like changes to Regent nominations and public safety. Champion said Dziedzic is interested in holding discussions with the full party to talk about their goals, rather than her dictating what the party should focus on.

Going forward, Clausen did mention that these specific goals were bipartisan.

“I was just with Senator [Jason] Rarick this morning. We talked about some of those issues today. I think that people are well aware of some of the needs of the university,” Clausen said, referring to the Pine City Republican and last session’s vice-chair of the higher education committee.

Members of both parties were eager to lower the political volatility and were confident in Dziedzic’s ability to work across the aisle.

“I believe that Minnesotans pretty much have the same desire to improve their quality of life, no matter where geographically they find themselves,” Champion said. “They want their place to be a great place to live, work and play.”

The Daily also spoke with the incoming minority leader, Sen. Mark Johnson (R-East Grand Forks).

“As to what’s your leadership style, your vision for our caucus and the party and the politics that go on behind the scenes, whether you’re Kari Dziedzic or [Speaker of the House] Melissa Hortman, we have to cast that vision for our individual caucuses,” Johnson said. “If that’s the one that a majority of the caucus likes and wants to go that direction, then that’s the one that gets chosen.”

Clausen, who shared an office with Dziedzic during their first years together as senators, ultimately said she is a good pick for leadership this session.

“As I was walking out the door, many times at six, seven o’clock, she was there until ten o’clock,” Clausen said. “She is tremendously respected, obviously, by our Senate caucus. She’s an extremely hard worker. She’s very knowledgeable. She puts in the time on it. She does her research. I think she’s a great pick for caucus leadership.”