by Joni Astrup
Rep. Nick Zerwas is back at the Capitol in St. Paul, a bit older and wiser with one legislative session under his belt.
A Republican from Elk River, Zerwas was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2012. He completed his first legislative session last spring and started his second one on Feb. 25, as the 2014 legislative session convened.
Zerwas told an Elk River Area Chamber of Commerce group Feb. 28 that he expected to encounter a lot of partisan fighting in St. Paul — DFLers versus Republicans. But what surprised him was how often he saw battle lines being drawn between the House and the Senate and between metro and outstate legislators.
He said there’s a stark contrast between the metro and outstate lawmakers, particularly on issues like education funding, environmental policy and local government aid, and their interests don’t necessarily follow party affiliations.
“That was one thing, being new to the Legislature last year, that really surprised me. I thought it was going to be all Republicans against Democrats,” he said during the chamber’s “Talking Business with Legislators” event held at the Guardian Angels offices in Elk River.
As a Republican, Zerwas is in the minority. The House and the Senate both have DFL majorities and Gov. Mark Dayton also is a DFLer. As a result, Zerwas said they set the legislative agenda.
“I can block and tackle some things, not everything, and very few times is there a turnover and we get to do some offense,” he said as the crowd chuckled.
Zerwas has found his own ways to navigate the politically charged atmosphere.
“I’m not a real big partisan guy. I try to find like-minded people and find a goal and work to get to where we need to go,” he said.
A dynamic in play this year is the fact that all 134 members of the House and the governor are up for re-election this fall. The Senate is not up for re-election in 2014.
Zerwas is seeking re-election. He is an Elk River native who served on the Elk River City Council before first being elected to the Minnesota House.