Rep. Kurt Daudt enters Capitol lore

by T.W. Budig

ECM Capitol reporter

Rep. Kurt Daudt has entered State Capitol lore.

In the final weeks of his first term, the Republican from Crown was elected House minority leader by his election-depleted caucus, a distinction not given to a first termer in more than a century.

“To find one at the end of their first term you have to go back to 1907 or something — it’s over 100 years,” Daudt said.

Daudt, 39, a former Isanti County commissioner, indicated his newness brings certain pressures — there are things about the process, for instance, he doesn’t know.

“But I’m a pretty quick study,” said Daudt, whose State Capitol office, a staffer quipped, currently consists of boxes being shuffled from one office to another.

“And I know what I don’t know,” Daudt said of an ability to bring people in to fill knowledge gaps.

House Republicans hold sway over Democrats only on the bonding bill which, requiring a super majority to pass, needs House Republican votes.

“They have offered that they want us to work with them on issues,” Daudt said of Democrats, now controlling the Legislature and governor’s office.

“I think the real question to be asked is, ‘Is the DFL going to live up to that or go on their own?’” he said.

Looking back, Daudt perceives the election results less a rejection of Republican stewardship than a party fumbling its own message.

“Our policies work and have been working,” Daudt insists, noting the paydown of the school funding shift although noting, too, a projected future deficit.

“We failed to get the message to voters that we have done that,” Daudt said of the perceived hand in turning around the state budget.

Beyond this, the sluggish economy has voters edgy, the political environment favorable to the attack.

“It’s easier to convince somebody that somebody else is doing something wrong, rather than convincing them what you’re doing is right,” Daudt said.

Like the Senate Republican Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, Daudt looks at the photo ID and marriage amendments their respective caucuses placed on the ballot as helpful to Republicans in some districts, hurtful in others.

“Was it a mistake to put the (marriage) amendment on? I don’t know. I’m not really sure about that,” Daudt said.

“Strategically, it probably wasn’t a good thing to have it on the ballot,” he said.

But House Republicans, Daudt insists, will not decide their actions on political ponderables but what’s best for the state.

Daudt added voters want lawmakers to be productive.

At a recent leaders’ forum, when asked about Democrats overreaching or pursuing a too aggressive agenda, Daudt said he hoped they wouldn’t.

“That’s a double-edge sword for me,” Daudt said.

“If they overreach, we’ll back in the majority. If you want my honest opinion, I think likely they will,” he said.