Democrats in Minnesota are showing signs of infighting that threaten to splinter the state party structure.
According to The Hill, underwhelming results in the 2020 election paved the way for two senior state senators — including one former caucus leader — to walk away from the party.
Eyes on the state Senate
Known statewide as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party, the Democratic Party in Minnestoa been losing ground in the Iron Range region for some time.
That area of the state had long been a Democratic stronghold where political candidates promised to protect the interests of mining unions. In recent years, however, Republicans have made significant gains.
In the lead-up to the 2020 election, the DFL Party had its eyes set on the state Senate. Party officials hoped to regain the majority from the GOP, which had a 35-32 advantage.
Plans for an independent caucus
Democrats failed to close the gap, however, and the disappointing result was followed by announcements by two state senators that they were parting ways with the party.
State Sens. Tom Bakk and Dave Tomassoni revealed the news on Wednesday, explaining that they would be working to form a new independent caucus in the state, according to a local CBS affiliate. Both of the elected officials represent districts in the Iron Range.
Bakk’s announcement was particularly surprising given his previous service as the Senate DFL Party caucus leader from 2011 to 2017.
“I’m very disappointed by the extreme partisanship going on nationally and right here in Minnesota,” he said in turning away from his former party. “Both political parties are to blame.”
“Undermining voters’ confidence”
Bakk went on to denounce the “constant negative and sharp rhetoric” on both sides, which he said results in “undermining voters’ confidence in our public institutions.”
Both he and Tomassoni express a hope that their move will bring Minnesota politics — at least in the Senate — back toward the center with an eye toward bipartisanship.
Of course, Minnesota Democrats chimed in with their take on the surprising development with a statement declaring that “the Senate DFL caucus includes a broad spectrum of views,” but “does not stretch as far as those who wish to function outside of our values as a caucus,” as the Star Tribune reported.