by Mike Knaak
Just two days after winning election to the Minnesota House of Representatives, Lisa Demuth gathered in St. Paul with 38 other newly elected house members for orientation.
“It was awesome,” Demuth said of the program. “To hear the history of the Capitol from an inside perspective was humbling. The magnitude of what I have been elected to do and sitting in the original desks and looking around – what a privilege.”
The group of new representatives includes 34 Democrats and five Republicans.
“The thing that stuck out to me the most, all of us are in the same position,” Demuth said, “wanting to do what’s best for Minnesota.”
Demuth defeated Democrat Jim Read in the Nov. 6 election to represent District 13A, which runs from St. Joseph southeast to the Kimball area and then west to Paynesville. The seat opened up when Jeff Howe decided to run for the state Senate District 13 seat in a special election. Howe defeated Democrat Joe Perske.
Demuth will be sworn in on Jan. 8. In the next six weeks, her schedule includes a three-day retreat with other new legislators to learn the operational details of legislation.
After the Democrats took control of the House by flipping a number of seats in the Twin Cities suburbs, Demuth will be a member of the minority party. Howe’s election means the Republicans will keep control of the Senate while Democrat Tim Walz was elected governor.
Howe was a member of the minority when he was elected to the House and he told her being a member of the minority will make her a better legislator.
“It will allow the House to work better across the aisle and build relationships,” Demuth said.
“What can we agree on? If we are very far apart, can we make small steps?”
While campaigning, Demuth said health-care costs topped all issues with voters.
“That message was driven home,” she said. “Making progress in that area would be a (legislative) success. We should work to lower premiums, and maintain pre-existing conditions (coverage) and the ability to choose health providers.”
Voters also said they were looking for results, not gridlock.
“That was why I was so encouraged meeting the other freshmen,” she said. “There were no enemies sitting in the room that day. Let’s get the job done.”
In addition to health care, Demuth said top issues will be workforce development and education funding.
She said she’ll be looking for solutions for workforce training and apprenticeship and work-based career development. She attended a meeting in Richmond recently where the Department of Labor and Industry presented information about current programs.
“Are employers aware of these programs? Is the word getting out?” she asked. “Is everyone aware of this? If not, why not?”
“Education funding doesn’t mean more money, but we should be looking at funding and making it fair (across the state),” she said. “We need to make sure our districts have local control. What is right for Rocori may not be the same as the suburban schools.”
Demuth said she is looking forward to opening day. Legislators’ families join the members for swearing in. Before then, there are other details to settle, such as office space and committee assignments.
“Thank you to the voters who have entrusted me with this,” she said. “My goal all along is to represent 13A well. Even those who did not vote for me, their thoughts and concerns are valuable to me.”