Updated Mar 17, 2022 - Politics

Sen. Tom Bakk, influential Minnesota powerbroker, to retire

Photo: Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Longtime Minnesota state Sen. Tom Bakk is retiring at the end of the current session.

Why it matters: Bakk, a former Senate DFL leader who recently left the party to caucus as an independent, is an influential powerbroker and dealmaker at the State Capitol.

The big picture: Bakk is the latest legislator to announce an exit amid a growing wave of retirements following the redrawing of the state's political maps.

What he's saying: The Cook independent, first elected to the Legislature in 1994, said he and his wife are looking forward to a new chapter of life that features "more soccer, basketball, baseball, volleyball, football, and hockey, enjoying more time to help and watch our grandchildren learn and grow."

Flashback: Bakk left the Senate DFL to caucus as an independent in November 2020, months after he was voted out as caucus leader in favor of Sen. Susan Kent, a newer legislator from the suburbs.

  • He had previously split with members of the more progressive wing of the DFL on issues such as mining and guns.

Between the lines: The retirements of Bakk and Sen. David Tomassoni, another former Democrat-turned-independent, come amid a broader political realignment in Northern Minnesota's Iron Range.

  • The region, once a DFL stronghold, has trended red in recent elections.

The intrigue: Former Senate GOP Leader Paul Gazelka had previously suggested Bakk would run for Senate as a Republican this year. But this move closes that door.

What's next: As chair of the Capital Investment Committee, Bakk's pre-retirement to-do list involves trying to broker a deal on another borrowing bill for public infrastructure and construction projects.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to add context about Bakk's split with the Senate DFL.


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