A tangible sign of the coming shift in Minnesota Senate power came Thursday when ascendant Republicans moved their furniture, file folders, knickknacks and wall-hung taxidermy into the prime spots of the Senate Office Building they long railed against.
A 34-33 seat advantage, pending a recount next week that begins with their candidate ahead, gives Republicans the probable majority starting in January.
The move was a foregone conclusion no matter how the election turned out, because the old minority Senate offices across the street are slated to be re-purposed. Republicans refused to join DFLers in a move to the new Senate-only building in January 2016, saying the $90 million structure was unnecessary, and it would be cheaper if they remained put.
“We saved a marginal amount of money,” said Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound. “It’s a functional building. I still think it wasn’t necessary. I think we could have done with what we have. But short answer is we’re going to make use of it because that’s what we built.”
Osmek was among those wheeling his belongings Thursday from his old office to a new one — a Capitol-facing office on the second of three floors that is a big step up from where he was before.
“I’m not in the penthouse. For four years I was down in the garden level as I called it. I sometimes called it my crypt. I had a wonderful view of a concrete wall,” he said. “This is just fine. It is good to be in the majority.”
Hip-hop music blared from a third-floor corner office where Sen. Warren Limmer of Maple Grove was settling in. Limmer is the most-senior Senate Republican so had one of the early picks. He also pointed to a modest savings from not having to move twice — once over to the new building and then up to the majority space after this year’s election.
“We made our point that this building was not necessary. But now that it’s built we have no choice but to move in,” Limmer said, adding that he hopes that building politics are now a thing of the past. “I personally thought they were done about a year ago.”
Demoted Democrats have already relocated to a lower floor and have been relegated to some offices with less-desirable views. Some grumbled about Republicans being rewarded, in part, for the way they bashed the financing and construction of the Senate building in competitive races. The building also housed the Senate’s temporary chambers when the Capitol was almost completely closed last year during the near-finished renovation.
“They did use it as a club,” said Sen. Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan. “There will still be some residual feelings that it was used unfairly in this election.”
Carlson added, “My opponent, my challenger, he used it all the time in every public forum. He used it in print. He said that ‘Carlson voted for this luxury office building.’ But I had to ask, where did he think he was going if he was elected?”
Carlson said another Jim — Republican Sen. Jim Abeler of Anoka — is getting his old office. He told him to take good care of it.
“I actually have a better view of the Capitol in my new office than I did in my third-floor office,” Carlson said.
The Department of Administration is still working with legislative officials about what to do with the office suite Senate Republicans vacated, which is on the first floor of the nearby State Office Building.