Sheehan and Brodkorb keep their posts in GOP majority
In naming their leadership staff, Senate Republicans have chosen to dance with those that brung ‘em.
The key staffers who have plotted the remaking of the Senate Republican Caucus in recent years will be running the show when they take the majority in January. Campaign guru Cullen Sheehan will continue as the caucus’s chief of staff. Indefatigable GOP political operative and deputy state party chair Michael Brodkorb will continue in his role as communications director.
The rest of the leadership staff positions announced Thursday were mostly filled out with current caucus staffers.
“It’s a very strong group,” Sheehan said. “Senate leadership felt it was important to have people who bring stability and knowledge of the legislative process as we move into a new era.”
Similarly, the Senate DFL has leaned on long-time caucus mainstays in reorganizing its downsized staff.
Republicans haven’t had a majority in the Senate since the start of the partisan era. The Conservative Caucus, the precursor to the Senate GOP Caucus, last held sway in 1972.
The Senate groups’ reliance on current caucus staff stands in contrast to the choices of the new House caucuses, which broke with many of their staffers from last session. That chamber’s Republicans hired a number of caucus alums from years gone by who had been away, like Chas Anderson and Jodi Boyne; DFLers went with a number of Capitol neophytes, like Zach Rodvold and Carrie Lucking.
The one new face for the Senate GOP is Kevin Matzek, who had been serving as the House Republican Caucus’s executive director. Matzek will now take over as the Senate Republican’s legislative director.
Even though staffers like Sheehan and Brodkorb are technically returning veterans, they are also the most critical pieces of a new wave that has swept through the caucus in recent years.
The Senate GOP, after decades languishing in the minority, has cleaned house at the staff level and among the ranks of veteran senators in the last two years. Sheehan, who has been working for the Senate for a year, is widely thought to bring a deeper level of political skill than his predecessor, Dan Wolf, who was best known for his administrative acumen. Brodkorb has also been a political force since joining the caucus in 2008 after working for the Minnesota Republican Party and the WeberJohnson political consulting shop.
“They have the kind of political skills that you don’t often see at the Legislature,” noted one Republican insider.
Sheehan has run two statewide political campaigns in the last three years. He was campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman in 2008 and for Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Emmer earlier this year. His other high-profile jobs have included a stint as executive director of the Iowa Republican Party.
Brodkorb’s resume is already a long one: He is a partisan researcher par excellence who was a major thorn in the side of DFLers when he wrote the Minnesota Democrats Exposed blog. He got his start at the Legislature as a legislative assistant to Sen. Gen Olson; from 1999 to 2002, he handled special projects for Senate Minority Leader Dick Day. He was also the minority staffer in charge of redistricting efforts, a role he will now reprise as part of the majority. From the Legislature, Brodkorb went to work for the state GOP as research director and later communications director.
Other GOP staff highlights:
On the DFL side: