ST. PAUL, Minn. -- House Democrats made it official last Thursday night, elevating Minority Leader Melissa Hortman of Brooklyn Park to the post of House Speaker.
The promotion became possible when the DFL picked up enough sits to flip control of the Minnesota House of Representatives Tuesday. When the 2019 session begins Democrats will hold a 75 to 59 majority in that chamber, pending the outcome of one recount.
Rep. Hortman emerged from the long, closed-door House DFL Caucus meeting Thursday night to announce her colleagues had selected her for the post. She returned a few minutes later to introduce Rep. Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley as the new House Majority Leader and Rep. Liz Olson of Duluth as Majority Whip.
Hortman told reporters they need to finish the unfinished business of the 2018 session, including opioid legislation, tax conformity and other items that had been stuffed into a 995-page omnibus bill Gov. Dayton vetoed.
She said she looks forward to working with Gov.-elect Tim Walz, who is a fellow Democrat and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, a Republican. She said they should get along well because they all are pragmatic problem-solving people.
Hortman, an attorney who has served since 2005, made the news in 2017 when she called out lawmakers for playing cards in the House Retiring Room while female legislators -- women of color -- were testifying against a bill that would impose harsher penalties on protesters who block freeways.
"I hate to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room but I think this is an important debate," Hortman said during the floor debate.
That prompted Republican lawmakers to demand an apology, because it broke with protocol to discuss the retiring room in a public forum, and it put them in an unfavorable light. Hortman refused to apologize, and the issue blew over eventually.