Daily Digest: Page tapped for top civilian honor

Good morning. Let’s start out the week, and the Digest, with some good news.

1. Trump to bestow top honor on Alan Page. Alan Page, the former Viking and Minnesota Supreme Court justice, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest honor for a civilian, in a White House ceremony on Friday. In choosing Page, President Donald Trump cited his athletic accomplishments, his long judicial career and his charitable work through the Page Education Foundation, which has provided scholarships to nearly 7,000 Minnesota students of color since 1988. “Alan Page is a Renaissance man,” said Minnesota Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, who worked with Page for nearly a decade on the state Supreme Court. “His prowess in athletics and the law make this a very deserving award. Through his education foundation, he has made countless lives better. Through his work on the court, he was a tireless advocate for racial fairness, gender fairness and justice for all.” (Star Tribune)

2. Suburban tilt to new House majority leadership. The new Minnesota House DFL majority will be led by a pair of suburban legislators with a third top spot filled by a Duluth lawmaker. At a closed-door meeting Thursday night, eighth-term state Rep. Melissa Hortman of Brooklyn Park was designated as the DFL’s choice for House speaker, a selection that will be put to a full House vote when the Legislature convenes on Jan. 8. She will be the third woman in state history to hold the position. Hortman, who had been minority leader the past two years, is being elevated after her caucus picked up 18 seats, although one apparent winner is subject to a recount. That was more than the 11 needed to overtake Republicans after four years with that party in charge. DFLers made big gains in suburban districts this year. Rep.-elect Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley, who returns to the House after a few years away, was chosen as majority leader. He is returning for a sixth term. Second-term Rep. Liz Olson of Duluth will be the House majority whip. (MPR News)

3. House GOP keeps Daudt in top caucus post. The House GOP caucus voted unanimously for Kurt Daudt during a closed-door organizing meeting Friday. Daudt served as House Speaker the past four years while Republicans were in charge. But Tuesday’s election flipped control of the House to Democrats. Daudt had a previous stint as minority leader in 2013 and 2014. Daudt told reporters that he sees himself now as a more experienced lawmaker. “I have grown personally and professionally quite a bit in the last six years,” Daudt said. “I known a lot more about how things work around here. I consider myself to be a very effective leader, a very effective negotiator. But I’m also somebody who has a heart and really wants to roll up my sleeves and solve the problems that Minnesotans care about.” (MPR News)

4. St. Paul council member Thao cleared in voting case. St. Paul City Council Member Dai Thao acted legally when he helped a woman vote in an election last year in which he was a mayoral candidate, a judge ruled late Friday. Ramsey County District Court Nicole Starr issued a decision stating that Thao was not guilty of any of the criminal charges filed against him. “At every step of the voting process, Defendant was open and transparent about his aid to a non-English speaking voter,” Starr wrote. “He encountered several election judges, who actively worked with him to ensure that the non-English speaking voter understood the process and was able to cast her vote.” (Star Tribune)

5. Shift evident in the 8th District. For more than 70 years, Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District has been represented almost exclusively by Democrats, powered by a strong union vote in Duluth and on the Iron Range. But two years ago, President Trump won the district by nearly 16 points. And Tuesday, Republican Pete Stauber comfortably won the open U.S. House seat over Democrat Joe Radinovich. The election solidified in Minnesota what’s been a growing trend nationally: a deep urban-rural political split. Cities and suburbs tilted heavily Democratic. But rural areas are now more Republican than ever before. And there’s no clearer place in Minnesota to see that shift than in the 8th. (MPR News)

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