House and Senate committees choose U of Minnesota regents candidates in partisan turn

A joint session of the state House and Senate higher education committees turned partisan when it chose a slate of preferred candidates for open slots on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents tonight.

First, here's the list of candidates who are advancing to a joint convention of the the House and Senate for final approval:

  • 2nd Congressional District: Former Republican House Speaker and state commissioner Steve Sviggum, who beat out Thomas Devine and former Republican state Rep. Laura Brod.

  • 3rd Congressional District: Incumbent regent David Larson, who beat out Norman Rickeman and Roby Thompson.

  • 8th Congressional District: David McMillan, who beat out William Burns, Robert Kennedy and Robert Ostlund.

  • At Large: Former state Rep. Laura Brod, who beat out incumbent regent Steven Hunter (who has strong union ties) as well as Allen Anderson.

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It was Brod's selection at the end of the evening that appeared to set off Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia). Although she had not been nominated for the at-large position, Republicans voted her into the position.

"Good job," he told the committees. "Bipartisanship on the Board of Regents has ended."

He would not comment when the session ended.

But after the session, House higher education committee Chairman Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls) said, "It has always been political -- even though we try very hard for it not to be. It has been almost partisan on both sides, with the exception of Larson. It was pretty much party line. We just had more votes. ... It's hard to expect friends to not vote for you."

Sviggum was well-known, he said, and Brod "worked well in the legislature with everybody."

Nornes said the selection of Brod might add some diversity to the slate of male candidates -- a gender imbalance that Sen. Sandra Pappas (DFL-St. Paul) had noted earlier that evening.

The remaining chosen candidate, David McMillan, is senior vice president of marketing, regulatory and public affairs for Allete, and chaired the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce board of directors for 2009-2010.

The start of the evening had also taken on a partisan tinge when state Rep. Joe Atkins suspected that Republicans in his district had met twice -- without DFL counterparts -- to decide on a candidate. Sen. Claire Robling (R-Jordan) said it was merely a chance for Republicans to discuss candidates, not to make any official candidate recommendations. They were poorly attended, she said.

Nornes said the House and Senate could still add names to the pool from the group of 12 tonight when they meet to approve the candidates.