University dazzles lawmakers with Paul Bunyan’s Axe

Senate President Jeremy Miller displays Paul Bunyan’s Axe, a football trophy brought to the Capitol by the University of Minnesota. Brian Bakst | MPR News.

The University of Minnesota introduced its newest lobbyist at the state Capitol on Monday, with lawmakers and staff members scurrying to pose for photos.

Paul Bunyan’s Axe created a stir as the university showed off the spoils from a celebrated football victory over Wisconsin last November.

The Senate president hoisted the axe above his head in celebratory fashion. One more-diminutive lawmaker held it next to her to show how much the six-foot-long tool towered over her. The chair of the Senate’s Higher Education Committee recorded a quick video next to the axe to post later on social media.

That chairman, Republican Sen. Paul Anderson of Plymouth, acknowledged the axe is an effective lobbying tool.

“You saw the excitement last November when they brought it home and the chaos that went with it to meet the team. And then you bring it to the Capitol and people get to touch something that hasn’t been in Minnesota for 15 years. It does bring excitement,” Anderson said. “The importance that the U brings to Minnesota, this is just one of those visible optics that people can identify with.”

A standing ovation as Paul Bunyan’s Axe is brought to the Minnesota Senate floor. Brian Bakst | MPR News.

The axe has traded hands between the flagship schools in Minnesota and Wisconsin since 1948. But it’s in Minnesota’s possession for the first time since 2004.

University handlers were planning a similar show-and-tell on the House side of the Capitol. Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan got a private viewing.

But did they bring it by too early in a year when the school’s budget request, regent selection and other initiatives are on the line?

“I’m sure it will be back,” Anderson predicted, then said with a laugh, “I’m guessing it will be at the testifying table often during negotiations.”


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