Bakk, Tomassoni bolt DFL caucus in MN State Senate

PHOTO: troita_<><, Flickr CC-BY

Two longtime Iron Range state senators will leave the DFL caucus and form an independent caucus for the 2021 legislative session. State Sen. David Tomassoni (I-Chisholm) and former DFL majority leader Sen. Tom Bakk (I-Cook) made the announcement Wednesday.

The Republicans held a 34-33 majority in the State Senate. Now they’ll hold a 34-31-2 advantage. So, this is less a seismic shift and more an opportunistic realignment.

I’ve written a full commentary on this development for the Minnesota Reformer: “Bakk-assoni say they’re going ‘independent.’ More like kept company men.”



  1. Fred Schumacher says

    This is the nail in the coffin of the Iron Range as a political power in the state. It’s finished. Rural Republicans don’t give a rip about mining, and urban DFLers are opposed. Mining is a one-time harvest, and the decline of mining regions is baked into the system. The world is littered with abandoned mining towns on dead end roads. When the Range had more population and voted DFL, it was the counterpoise that delivered the state to the DFL. By voting Republican, the Range has made itself irrelevant. It has become subsumed into the mass of outstate Republicans whose priorities are very different from those of the Range. It wasn’t politics that took away the Range’s “traditional life.” It’s 120 yard haul trucks and 60 yard shovels, both of which will soon become driverless. Mining has very high productivity and requires few employees.

    The ringer in all this is that the island of Bougainville has voted 98% in favor of independence from Papua New Guinea. That island had the largest copper mine in the world when it was shut down by civil war in the 1980s. At the time, it provided 40% of the tax revenue of Papua New Guinea. One year’s production from the Panguna Mine would equal the entire life cycle production of hard rock mining in northern Minnesota. A slurry pipeline to a deep water ocean port was completed before the mine shut down. My neighbor was an engineer on that project. That port is only 3,000 miles from the largest consumer of copper, China. Panguna has high quality ore, including a high percentage of gold, that is easily mined. If Panguna reopens, Minnesota won’t be able to compete.

  2. “By voting Republican, the Range has made itself irrelevant.” That is the way it feels to me. How long will it take for the DFL to realized it doesn’t have to kowtow to Range/mining interests any more?

  3. Great piece Aaron. A hammer was taken to those idiots. The leadership of these two is criminal. Veda Ponikvar will be haunting Tomassoini this night and to his grave. This accomplishes nothing for the people of the range except making everything worse then ever. They aligned themselves with the Proud Boys over the people and as others have said in a totally pointless power move.

  4. During the senate DFL leadership fight last year, one of the tropes making the rounds was a plea to not embarrass Bakk when he was planning on retiring before the 2022 election, which would follow redistricting.

    It does seem very questionable ethically to run as a party member, then leave the party three weeks after the election. It seems, in fact, outright cowardly. If they had this staunch philosophical belief, why didn’t they have the guts to run on it in 2020? I guess in their minds the voters are just suckers who don’t deserve to know.

    My guess is that both of them will “retire” in 2022, moving to highly paid “jobs” in the mining industry that leave a lot of time for fishing and reward years of putting the mining companies ahead of everything else.

    The Democratic Party survived the departure of Strom Thurmond. It will survive the departure of these two “friends of Strom” as well.

  5. Fred Schumacher says
  6. Excellent column , Aaron. “Kept company men” , for sure…a shameful and deceitful move.

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