Editor’s note: Welcome to Capitol Retort, our weekly review of issues in state and national news, with a rotating cast of political people in the know. Answers have been edited for length and clarity. Any instances of agreement are accidental.
Question 1: Republicans have named Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, their new senate majority leader. In his early interviews he has pledge to work with DFLers toward solid governing solutions. How do you feel about him as majority leader?
Javier Morillo, union leader and progressive advocate: I hope it is the case and that this time, upon winning the majority, the Republicans will focus on real issues. Gazelka has been a bit of a cultural warrior himself, particularly related to the LGBTQ community. And the last time Republicans were in charge they put the marriage amendment on the ballot.
My Republican friends assure me that they have learned their lesson and they will not be going after divisive things. But I am hoping that Senator Gazelka’s own — from my perspective — extreme past on social issues doesn’t get in the way of that.
Jennifer DeJournett, conservative political operative: I think he will do a good job. If he is able to bridge the different perspectives in the caucus and get down to business and work well with the Minnesota House caucus, he’ll be fine.
Josh Crosson, education advocate and senior director, Ed Allies: I am excited to work with Paul Gazelka. I am especially excited to hear his announcements for a pro-kid, pro-student approach in education, and his appointments of the right leaders for those committees.
Morillo: Absolutely. Here in my office, and for so many friends who I am seeing on social media, the reaction was incredibly emotional because it is so rare to see anyone held to account.
I think that Choi was almost the mirror opposite of [Hennepin County Attorney] Mike Freeman when he talked about [the Minneapolis police shooting of] Jamar Clark. Freeman defined the officer’s state of mind in such a way that it just seemed like if a police officer subjectively decided he was in danger, he could act with deadly force. Choi said it is not in fact subjective — it’s not only about whether the officer felt that he was in danger. It was whether there was an objective danger. And Choi did not find that.
DeJournett: Here is what I want to say: I think it is important that people keep a level head and listen as the facts come out through the trial. Listen to all of the different sides and perspectives — that is important to do — and not jump to any conclusions until the whole process plays out.
I don’t know if it is the right thing to do. I don’t know if it is the wrong thing the do because I don’t have all the facts. I do think everyone feels empathy for Castile’s family and his friends. What a tough haul for anyone.
Crosson: I think that Philando Castile and his family deserve their day in court, and I think that this has been a long time coming. We have seen several instances of what are, to me, murders that haven’t been discussed in open court. So this is absolutely the right decision. I am hoping that Philando Castile’s family finds justice through this.
Question 3: Minnesota’s 5th District Congressman Keith Ellison has placed himself in contention as the Democratic National Committee chair. Would picking him be a good move for the Democrats?
Morillo: Absolutely. I am just ecstatic about this and I am doing everything I can to help the congressman become the next chair of the DNC.
One of the other top contenders is [former Vermont Gov.] Howard Dean. Dean was a superdelegate who was very aggressively for Clinton — as was I. And I know that neither he nor I are the people to lead in the healing of the party.
Keith is an organizer and he does something very rare for someone with a safe seat in Congress, which is that he runs aggressive campaigns for his re-election. He does that with an explicit point of increasing voter turnout — increased voter turnout in the 5th Congressional District certainly helps Democrats win statewide. So he is a team player. He is the right person.
DeJournett: I think it would just solidify the fact that Ellison is never in Minnesota. So for Democrats it would just be status quo, because they never get to see their congressman anyway. He is absent from the state of Minnesota and the people that he is elected to serve.
The last I checked in Minneapolis, the achievement gap is growing wider and the economic opportunity gap is growing greater. So it’s good to know that the people of the 5th District would have less time than they already have — which is none at all — with their congressman. If I was a Democrat, I’d say, “Keith, come home!”
Crosson: Keith Ellison gaining this leadership position would be a really good thing for him, for the caucus and for the state. I actually had the privilege of working with Keith when I was a staffer in Congress and I am excited to see what he can do and how he can advance the Democratic Party.