REGIONAL— Last week’s surprise announcement that Sens. Tom Bakk and David Tomassoni were leaving the DFL to form their own Independent caucus in the state Senate is unlikely to lead to …
REGIONAL— Last week’s surprise announcement that Sens. Tom Bakk and David Tomassoni were leaving the DFL to form their own Independent caucus in the state Senate is unlikely to lead to similar moves among Iron Range representatives in the Minnesota House.
“I don’t see where it changes my position at all,” said Rob Ecklund, DFL- International Falls, who represents all but the Duluth area in Bakk’s sprawling Third Senate District.
Ecklund, who won re-election in a surprisingly tight contest this year, said he’ll continue to work closely with Bakk on issues that affect northeastern Minnesota. “Tom Bakk is my friend as well as my senator,” said Ecklund. “That doesn’t change.”
While Bakk and Tomassoni’s decision undoubtedly enhances their influence in the closely-divided Senate, that same dynamic would not be at play in the House, where the DFL retains its majority. “I’m in the House majority and that’s a good place to be,” said Ecklund, who said he’s in line for a committee chairmanship in the House this session.
Ecklund said the unique circumstances in the Senate made it increasingly difficult for Bakk and Tomassoni to operate effectively within the DFL caucus. “If you look at the makeup of the Senate DFL, except for a couple, there aren’t any other DFL senators from outside the metro. It would be tough to work an agenda for northeast Minnesota with that makeup,” said Ecklund. If, as expected, both Bakk and Tomassoni are given committee chairmanships, that’s likely to significantly enhance their abilities to serve their districts, notes Ecklund.
While still dominated by the metro, the House DFL caucus continues to have more members from other parts of the state, giving those outstate members greater influence within the caucus. The DFL caucus includes three Iron Range legislators, Julie Sandstede and Dave Lislegard, who represent the two halves of Tomassoni’s district, as well as Ecklund.
The Timberjay reached out to Rep. Lislegard seeking comment for this story. He did not respond prior to deadline.