Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove, announced Tuesday she will leave the Senate after her term ends. Sieben is assistant majority leader — the first member of either Senate caucus’s leadership (or the House’s for that matter) to say she won’t seek re-election this year.
Sieben’s was the third such announcement in less than two weeks from adjacent legislative districts of the south metro, following Sen. Joe Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, and Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights.
She is the 13th current member of the Senate to say she won’t run again. Nine are DFLers, of whom six are women. On the House side, four members have said they won’t run again, two members resigned, and David Dill died Aug. 8. Both Ann Lenczewski, who resigned from the House in December, and Branden Petersen, who left the Senate in October, will be replaced by special elections set for Tuesday.
“Yet again, the Minnesota Legislature is losing another talented leader,” Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, said by news release. “Minnesotans need to ask themselves why talented legislators like Katie Sieben keep leaving the Minnesota Legislature.”
Sieben served in the House from 2002 to 2007, when she joined the Senate. Her 14 years in the Legislature will be a longer tenure than that of her father, Michael Sieben, who served in the House 1973–1982, and equal to that of her uncle, Harry “Tex” Sieben, Jr., who starting in 1971 served seven terms in the House, including two terms as speaker.
On Wednesday, Rep. Dan Schoen, DFL-St. Paul Park, announced on Twitter, “I get to serve with a friend and now she’s leaving the Senate. I’m honored for the chance to run for Senate to replace” Sieben. Sieben tweeted that Schoen “is a leader in the House on big issues like public safety, education and health care; he’ll be a tremendous senator for SD54.”
Sieben spoke with Capitol Report the day she made her announcement (edited for length):
Capitol Report: It sounds like you have been thinking about this for a while.
Sen. Katie Sieben: Yeah, it certainly wasn’t an overnight decision. I’ve been talking about this with my family for a while, and some other people, friends, that I’m close to, and came to a decision.
CR: Other people have been making similar announcements lately. Did they have any influence on your decision?
Sieben: It didn’t have influence on my decision. I’ve served 14 years now. I’ve been there longer than some of them. It just felt like the right time for me, personally. I want to have another career and work, and it’s hard to do this job and have another job, when you’re kind of one foot in one thing and one foot in another. Or to do it well. As the assistant majority leader, you really want to work at it more full time. A lot of factors came into play but I concluded that this was the right decision for me.
CR: During the interim, you served on the Elections Emergency Planning Task Force. Will you be introducing a bill this session?
Sieben: Yeah, I think we’ll get that done. The secretary of state did a great job chairing that task force, and they brought forward a report with some strong recommendations. There’s no reason we can’t get that done this year.
CR: You had an even longer time in the Legislature than your dad.
Sieben: Yeah, isn’t that funny? I think Tex might have been in for 14 years but my dad served for 10 years. I don’t remember either of their times in the Legislature. I was too young. I was like 5 or 4 when my dad got done. But certainly they both were a huge influence on my initial decision to run, but also just inspiring me and instilling in me a sense of service. Especially my dad because — he’s my dad. You should do something bigger than yourself. You should try to help others. It’s your obligation, for what you’ve been handed in life, to go out and make other people’s lives better. So I still really am so grateful for my dad, for being such a great role model for me and helping me so much along the way.
CR: Did your dad also decide not to run again?
Sieben: He just decided not to run. After 10 years, he thought it had been enough. So he just went on and developed his law career. We were elected at the same age: 25. He got out at 35. I’m 38 now.
CR: The last couple announcements have been in very nearby districts — Sen. Metzen and Rep. Atkins.
Sieben: They’re both such great people. It’s a loss for Dakota County. We all together, especially with Sen. Metzen and his long tenure in the Senate — we’re losing a lot of years. Joe and I were elected to the House together in ’02, and I have a lot of respect for his advocacy for the district and for consumers in Minnesota.
CR: I’ve seen speculation that the recent rash of retirements could have something to do with frustration with leadership. Is that the case with you?
Sieben: No, I’m part of the leadership and believe strongly in our caucus and our members. I’m sad, too, about some of the retirements because we’re losing some great members. But that’s the way it goes. That’s the was the Legislature works. I don’t know if there’s any more than any other cycle or not. I wanted to make the announcement with enough time for my local people to choose their next representative.