Minnesota Senate DFL chooses López Franzen as new leader

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(KSTP) – The Minnesota Senate DFL has elected Melisa López Franzen, of Edina, as its new minority leader.

López Franzen was first elected to the state’s Senate in 2012 and was previously an assistant minority leader.

She becomes the first senator who’s a member of the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) caucus to be the minority leader, according to the Senate DFL.

She replaces outgoing minority leader Sen. Susan Kent, who decided to step down and not run for re-election.

López Franzen released the following statement on Monday night:

"It is truly an honor to be elected by my colleagues to serve as the next Senate DFL Caucus Leader. Our caucus represents the values that Minnesotans across the state share, and I am looking forward to continuing the important work we have yet to do on behalf of our state.

Senate DFLers will continue to work hard to support Minnesota’s working families and ensure that our students and schools have what they need, especially as they face the challenges this pandemic has created. We will fight for clean air and water, including addressing the urgency of climate change, and will continue to work to protect and advance our democracy, which includes supporting a fair and transparent redistricting process and expanding voter access.

López Franzen will join new Republican Senate Majority Leader Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, in navigating a possible special session to approve front-line worker pandemic pay bonuses.

However, Gov. Tim Walz wants a guarantee from Senate Republicans that they won’t also use the special session to vote down the confirmation of Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.

"We’ve got to get away from this idea of punishment to strong public servants who are simply carrying out their duties and then relieving them to settle a political score," Walz said last week.

"The Republican Senate’s issues are with me and the policies I put forward, not the public officials who are then out."

Last week, after he was elected as the new caucus majority leader, Miller wouldn’t guarantee that Malcolm’s confirmation wouldn’t come up for a vote.

"I will share that there are serious concerns about… Commissioner Malcolm, that we’ve heard from constituents," Miller said. "But I’ll also share it’s an ongoing conversation within our caucus and we’ll have to see how it plays out."

Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier says there are risks for both sides.

"Jan Malcolm could backfire on Republicans if they remove her from office in the middle of a virus problem that could indicate to a lot of voters that they’re not serious about addressing the problem," Schier said.

However, Walz runs the risk of not calling a special session and delaying the pandemic pay bonuses.

Walz said last week he’s still holding out hope for a one-day special session on the front-line worker bonuses and drought relief before the end of September.