May 4, 2023 - Politics

Minnesota Democrats' progressive push drives internal tensions

tweet from judy seeberger

Freshman DFL Sen. Judy Seeberger says she doesn't have a problem with the progressive policies the Legislature is passing this year. But sometimes she wishes her colleagues would talk about them a little less.

The big picture: Minnesota Democrats are getting national attention for using their full control of the state Capitol to pass a pent-up list of liberal bills at a fast clip after years of divided government.

Yes, but: It's not just Republicans complaining about the majority party's priorities and pace. Some issues and messaging decisions are causing division and consternation within the DFL.

Driving the news: Seeberger, who represents a swing district along the Wisconsin border that includes Hastings and Cottage Grove, raised eyebrows this week with her response to a tweet from DFL Party chair Ken Martin celebrating what he called the most progressive agenda in the nation.

  • "I feel it's important to point out that there are a few moderate lawmakers who wish we were passing bills that were a little more, you know, moderate," she tweeted back.

Reality check: As a number of Republicans pointed out in response to her tweet, most of the majority's bills cleared the Senate with the bare-minimum 34 votes from Democrats.

  • That means Seeberger — or any of the other moderates — could have blocked recently passed bills from becoming law.

What she's saying: She told Axios that she stands by her votes and is "proud of the work that we've done,” but she wishes there was “a little more balance in the [legislation] that we prioritized this year” and a bigger spotlight from Democrats more broadly on "some of the moderate things that we've done."

  • "I wish we could have also highlighted some of the bills that are important to moderate folks," she said Tuesday.
  • That includes "economic relief [for] seniors and economic relief for the middle class, and things that matter to folks across the political spectrum, not necessarily the progressive camp," she added.

Between the lines: Seeberger, an attorney and paramedic, won her election by just 321 votes last year.

What we're watching: A number of issues that have caused division between moderates and progressives, including proposals related to taxes, gun control and abortion access, remain unresolved, with just over two weeks left in the session.

  • Seeberger declined to discuss prospects for the outstanding proposals, but said Democrats are having productive internal conversations about contentious bills.

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