Dean Johnson says goodbyes at Capitolby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson met with his DFL colleagues on Thursday to say goodbye after losing his bid for re-election. The veteran legislator from Willmar made some of his first public comments about the loss as he prepared for a caucus meeting to welcome newly-elected senators.
St. Paul, Minn. — Dean Johnson says he now has time to polish his golf game, play gin rummy and travel. After 28 years in the state Legislature, Johnson suffered a narrow but dramatic election defeat to Republican Joe Gimse.
Conservative groups targeted Johnson for his role in blocking Senate votes on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage as well as legislation to further restrict abortion.
Representatives of Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage were among those celebrating the election results. Two days after the vote, Johnson criticized the effort to defeat him.
"The old adage about the swift boat that John Kerry encountered, I encountered in massive, massive degrees and amounts -- outside money in the magnitude of $200,000 to $300,000. And in a larger context, it doesn't make any sense, because one is, they shot the general but lost the war," Johnson said.
Johnson is a recently retired National Guard general. He's also a Lutheran pastor who opposes abortion. He says his opponents lost the war because the Minnesota Senate is now more solidly in favor of abortion rights. The DFL added 6 seats to its majority in the Minnesota Senate, and the Minnesota House moved from Republican to DFL control.
"As far as gay marriage, I do not see the Senate or the House putting it on the ballot. So, these are two... important issues in my Senate district, now have taken gigantic steps backward," he said.
Johnson says the newly elected DFL senators are among the best he's encountered during his time in the Senate. He's urging his colleagues to pass major legislation dealing with health care and transportation funding during the first 60 days of the 2007 session.
"My suggestion is that the leadership get together and pass as many of these things as they can, and the governor is going to have to make some decisions. I think Governor Pawlenty will be more agreeable to negotiate and he will not be as tied to the right-wing agenda of his party. He's going to have to work with Democrat-controlled Legislature. So, It could spell good things for Minnesota," according to Johnson. Johnson says he made no recommendation to his DFL colleagues on who should succeed him as majority leader. Six senators are vying for the job. Senate Republicans are expected to select a minority leader on Friday.
- All Things Considered, 11/09/2006, 5:47 p.m.