Kurt Daudt was elected minority leader of the Minnesota House Republicans on November 10th. I have known Kurt for six years. Pictured at left are the two of us at the Republican National Convention this past August.
Daudt is an interesting choice. He is a member of the establishment, of course, having served as Marty Seifert's campaign manager in 2010, and having supported Pete Hegseth for Senate in 2012. Both campaigns attacked non-establishment folks pretty aggressively, so unsurprisingly, both fell short in their efforts. Daudt's track record shows that he either overestimates the power of "clique politics," or that he would rather lose than reach outside of his clique.
He has been groomed by folks in the Republican establishment for awhile. When I met him in 2006, he was an "appointee" of the chairman on the Republican board of the 8th congressional district. (It was a contrived position meant to solidify power for the chairman of the board by giving him additional support on the board.) In 2007, Daudt was elected to the state Republican executive committee. Today, he is its longest serving member.
I've interacted with him frequently in the years to pass. The congressional district board of which he is a part has frequently worked to prevent legislative endorsements in my House district, because they know they will not like the outcome. In 2010 and 2012, we went without endorsements for our House candidates. When my county set up its own process of endorsing a candidate, Daudt called to say that we could all go to jail. (We never went to jail.) Click here to see that story, published in Politics in Minnesota's newsletter.
However, though he has been groomed for some time, it seems as though this year's circumstances have made his present rise more precipitous than judicious. It is ironic that Daudt was selected for the minority leader position in a season directly following one in which Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and RPM Deputy Chairman Michael Brodkorb were forced to leave for their extramarital affair. Daudt, 39, has never been married. That is not in itself a bad thing, but it does make one wonder whether he was the safest choice at this time.
Additionally, Daudt was just elected to the House in 2010. He hardly has the record that is traditional for legislative leaders. Before him, Kurt Zellers served in the House for six years before coming minority leader. Marty Seifert first served in the House for ten years, and Steve Sviggum for fourteen years. Daudt's short time in the legislature makes him unpredictable.
We can see his reflexes within the Republican Party. He doesn't like help from people who are not a part of the clique, who don't have something to gain. "The clique," the establishment, never does; they don't know how to deal with people who don't want anything. They don't know how to deal with ideologues. They aren't comfortable around them, because they don't understand them and think of them as too naive and old-fashioned to be useful.
How will that translate into legislative leadership? Well, we could expect it to mean increased Republican support for big spending bills, but the Democratic majority won't need Republican help for that this year anyway. More troubling may be the implications for next year's legislative candidates; Daudt and his friends have aggressively tried to pick and choose those candidates in their own district. Trying to stop endorsing conventions is one method they have used.
The dynamics of the state, though, will not allow Daudt to use those tactics everywhere without consequence. Daudt has done a good job of adapting to his circumstances in the past; he will need to do so again to survive politically. If his old methods are too ingrained in him to change, he isn't going to make it very long. Time will tell what path he takes.