NEW ULM - Minnesota Senate Majority Leader David Senjem (R-Rochester) was the guest speaker Thursday for a private fundraiser in New Ulm for the campaigns of Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) and Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls), who organized the event.
Senjem, who spoke to The Journal before the event, praised Dahms and Torkelson as hardworking lawmakers who did a significant amount of good work the last two years. He said that he felt it was appropriate to attribute any state revenue surplus in 2013 to work completed by the Republican majority.
"We need these kind of people in the state Legislature," said Senjem, "They've been rock solid in the [Minnesota House of Representatives} and the Senate."
Senjem said it was too early to state which legislative races would be targeted because the Republicans had just wrapped up polling. He declined to provide any details about the polling, but he said he was now very optimistic that the Republicans would retain or even grow their majority in the Senate.
"That doesn't mean we are going to relax by any means," said Senjem, "A lot of our people in 2010 are freshmen. So, to some extent, they are least well known in their district."
He said the freshmen legislators are expected to have the closer races.
Senjem expects this year's election to stay focused on jobs and the economy, and voters' concern about the national debt. He expects the race to also highlight a the difference in approaches to taxes. He pointed to Gov. Mark Dayton's statement Wednesday about people being unwilling to raise taxes for government costs. He said the Republicans' disagreement with this stance would form the crux of the contrasts.
"[The DFL] will make changes to [the Homestead Credit] and issues. But, taxes, overall and state-wide, will be going down this year," said Senjem.
While reflecting on recent legislative sessions and his role as majority leader starting in late 2011, he said the inexperience of the wave of new lawmakers was challenging. But, he said it did not impact the actual the process of passing laws since bright, hardworking individuals had been picked for each of the races won by the Republicans.
He also reflected on the myriad of scandals that had dogged the Republican-controlled Minnesota Legislature the last two years. Senjem took over in the wake of the Amy Koch-Michael Brodkorb scandal. He was recently fined along with other Republicans for using state facilities for campaign work.
Senjem said he was limited in what he could speak about due to the ongoing Brodkorb lawsuit. He said that he primarily learned how easily anybody could be the victim of the lawsuit and how challenging it is to have to prove yourself innocent.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)