New House DFL leaders hail from suburbs

State Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, speaks to reporters after being chosen as the next House speaker by the new DFL majority. Matt Sepic | MPR News

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.

Hortman told reporters there’s some significant, unfinished business from the last session that her party wants to tackle quickly.

“So we will get started right away looking at tax conformity, addressing the opioid epidemic, nursing home abuse and neglect, and other issues that were wrapped up in that 990 page bill that fell on the last day of session,” Hortman said.

Republicans retained a 34 to 33 Senate majority. DFLer Tim Walz was elected governor.

Winkler was first elected in 2006 and served until 2015, when he resigned after his family moved. He returned to Minnesota and built toward a possible run for attorney general, but shifted gears in 2016 to seek his old seat when Walz selected state Rep. Peggy Flanagan as his lieutenant governor. Flanagan had replaced Winkler in the House.

The attorney known for his sharp parries during floor debates said he would work to lower the political temperature in the House.

“My job as majority leader will be to make sure the Minnesota House reflects the values of Minnesotans: civility, cooperation, and advancing an agenda that serves people in all parts of the state and from all backgrounds,” Winkler said in a written statement.

Republicans were meeting Friday to select a House minority leader.