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Rep. Dario Anselmo
Rep. Dario Anselmo

Breaking the Ice: Lawmaker’s purple pride shines in business, Capitol

Name: Dario Anselmo

Title: Representative, District 49A

Education: Whittier College, Boston University, University of Minnesota

Rep. Dario Anselmo, R-Edina, had plenty of reasons to choose purple as his campaign color: Prince used to play at his former business, Fine Line Music Cafe. He’s a Vikings fan. And Anselmo sees himself as more of a “purple politician.”

The suburban Republican — who works in commercial real estate, hails from Duluth and has lived in Minneapolis and St. Paul — has frequently crossed party lines in his House votes. “Everyone has been respectful about that,” Anselmo said. “I thought I would be hazed a little more.”

Anselmo sees some parallels between the Capitol and the Fine Line, which he sold in 2013 after a nearly two-decade run that included hosting President Bill Clinton in addition to musicians from around the world.

“It’s not a big leap,” Anselmo said. “You’re dealing with a lot of different constituencies. You’re trying to make people happy that can very much not be happy. The big difference is there’s maybe a little less alcohol in the people at the Capitol.”

Q. What’s the best way to start a conversation with you?

A. Probably just say, “I have a half-dozen of your favorite doughnuts; let’s chat.” Those doughnuts are for me and my staff. If you’re a lobbyist, it’s a dozen.

Q. Who was the first presidential candidate you voted for and why?

A. Ronald Reagan. I campaigned for him in California because I was going to school there at the time. I somehow got accidentally invited to his victory party, so that was pretty cool. I liked his optimism. We needed that.

Q. What books are on your bedside table or e-reader?

A. I’m in a book club. We call it a gentlemen’s book club. It’s 10 guys of different political and geographic backgrounds. We read “Hillbilly Elegy,” that talked about what happened in Trump America. My book club wrote me the first checks for launching my campaign. That was neat to have the support.

Q. What’s a favorite activity outside your job?

A. Biking. I’m a road and mountain biker. I like to ski with my family. We’re a family of ski racers. I try to celebrate the cold and embrace the warmth any time I can.

Q. If someone visits you in your hometown, what would you take them to see or do?

A. I’m proud to say I’m from Duluth. I would take them for a bike ride from the Canal Park area up the North Shore and take them past all the great sites, past Glensheen and continue up that beautiful pathway.

Q. How has an event or person inspired you (personally, politically, professionally)?

A. My grandmother, Rhoda Lund. Now she would be considered a liberal Republican. She was one of the first women to go to China when Nixon opened up the doorway. She was a Republican national delegate from Minnesota when not a lot of women were doing that.

Q. What would be one way to end partisan polarization?

A. More communication, doing more things. We did some things with the House Republicans. We did some things with the Senate because the Senate and the House are not always in alignment. There are three cross-pollenizations that need to happen: rural-urban, red-blue and House-Senate. More socializing, the world’s a lot better — having a drink with someone whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic — in the world where I came from, hospitality.

Q. Where do you like to eat lunch?

A. Edina Grill is one of my go-to places. Gavin Kaysen [chef, owner, Spoon and Stable, Minneapolis; Bellecour, Wayzata] is a constituent here. I’m trying to pitch Gavin on doing a restaurant in Edina. That will be my new favorite.

Q. What is something very few people know about you?

A. I spent a stint when I was a pilot on the Tom Petty “Great Wide Open” tour in 1991. Not flying Tom Petty. They drive in the quarter-million dollar tour bus. Flying the advance. It was interesting to see the business side of music. After that is when I got involved in the Fine Line.

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