Incoming state senators give old body a young vibe

On its face, it might seem like November’s election didn’t change much – both across the country and here in Minnesota.

There’s still an old white man readying to take over the White House. Congress will likely remain divided and the political parties didn’t see a surge of support.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Legislature remains divided, too. The House is still controlled by the DFL, although Republicans made slight gains, and Republicans will continue to hold the Senate, even though Democrats tightened the margin.

But looking beyond the power struggle, a new generation of policymakers is hoping to leave its impact on Minnesota politics.

“At some point, the passing of the generational torch has to occur. Whether it’s at the national level or at the state level, you’re beginning to see it,” Sen.-elect Zach Duckworth (R-Lakeville) told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. “I’m just very grateful and thankful that we have other young people out there, other leaders, who are willing to step forward, be a part of the process and take some ownership of trying to set the vision for our country and our state and put us on the right path.”

A 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS analysis show the average age of a Minnesota state senator is 59. Those more-seasoned senators witnessed the so-called moral majority, President Ronald Reagan telling the Russians to tear down the Berlin Wall and will likely remember President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

Three incoming state senators probably can’t tell you what the 1980s were like.

“We are excited as a younger group to come in and bring our perspective,” said Sen.-elect Lindsey Port (DFL-Burnsville), who defeated 68-year-old Republican Dan Hall.

Julia Coleman, daughter-in-law of former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman (R), will become the youngest female state senator in Minnesota history when she takes the oath in January. At 28, Coleman (R-Chanhassen) will step into a Republican stronghold seat, which is being vacated by Sen. Scott Jensen.

The previous record was held by former State Sen. Ember Reichgott Junge (DFL), who was 29 years and 4 months old in January 1983, according to the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library.

“I know traditionally, freshmen are to be seen and not heard in the legislature but we have a one vote majority so every single vote, every single voice this time around matters,” Coleman said.

When the Senate convenes in January, Republicans will hold a 34-33 majority. They face a budget crisis, a battle over redistricting and the government’s continued response to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the young senators – all of whom have young families – say they’re up for the challenge, which comes after campaigning with babies-on-hip and asking moms to make support phone calls.

“When I first threw my hat into the ring, I was bombarded with messages and people saying, ‘You can’t be a good mother and a good state senator at the same time,’” Coleman said. “I’m really, really looking forward to proving them wrong.”