NORTHFIELD, Minn. (PAI)–Add another unionist to the large ranks of them in the Minnesota legislature. And the election of Democrat Kevin Dahle to a state senate seat from Northfield is special: It shifted the balance of power in state government.
Dahle’s win in a Jan. 3 special election adds the president of the Northfield Education Association to the union members serving in the capitol in St. Paul. There, now, more than one of every six lawmakers carries a union card.
Dahle garnered 6,802 votes, 55 percent, to 5,225 votes, 42 percent, for Republican Ray Cox and 296 votes, two percent, for Independence Party candidate Vance Norgaard in state senate district 25. Dahle fills the seat vacated when Republican Tom Neuville resigned to become a judge.
His election means the Democrats—officially the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota—now has a “supermajority”: Enough votes in the state senate to override any legislative vetoes by Gov. Tim Pawlenty ®. Last session, Pawlenty vetoed major bills, including transportation funding and local government aid.
Dahle becomes the 36th union member in the Minnesota legislature. His election means Education Minnesota, the 70,000-member educators’ union that is a joint affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association—now has an astounding 21 members serving in the legislature.
Unions hope Dahle’s victory is a harbinger for the 2008 elections, when Minnesotans will go to the polls to elect a U.S. president, a U.S. senator, eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives and many state and local officeholders. In the weeks before the special election, union members made thousands of phone calls and knocked on hundreds of doors to turn out the vote to support Dahle.
Workday Minnesota and Press Associates