Selection of Brod as U's regents candidate questioned by Democrats

The partisan spat over yesterday's where-did-that-come-from selection of former Republican state Rep. Laura Brod as the at-large candidate for the U's Board of Regents hasn't subsided.

Two Democratic House members are suggesting Republicans pulled a fast one when they selected fellow Republican Brod as candidate to a regents seat she hadn't been nominated for. One has called for a reconsideration of her selection, and the House has apparently been debating whether she was properly chosen.

You may remember that during the joint House-Senate committee's selection of candidates, Brod lost out to a fellow Republican, former state House Speaker Steve Sviggum, for a position representing the 2nd Congressional District.

But later, during the vote for the at-large district position -- which featured incumbent Steven Hunter (who has strong union ties) and candidate Allen Anderson -- House higher education committee Chairman Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls) suddenly voted for Brod out of the blue.

Republicans on the committee backed that vote, and Brod beat out her rivals.

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Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) immediately cried foul, saying that the Republicans had turned the Board of Regents into an unnecessarily partisan vote. During the last selection cycle, he later said, when the DFL had a stronger legislative majority than Republicans have now, "we didn’t do what you did."

Today Rep. Joe Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) continued the issue when the House higher-ed committee met to discuss the governor's budget. He referred to a couple of meetings that Republicans had held in the 2nd District, where he's located, to discuss candidates -- without inviting Democrats. Although Republicans have said nothing came of the unofficial meetings, Atkins was skeptical.

I find it remarkable that even though she was not discussed, every GOP member (suddenly) voted for her. Something just didn’t quite feel right. ... With the benefit of a few hours of reflction, it just didn’t strike me that the right approach was taken last night.

Nornes said he bears some responsibility, saying his casting of the first vote for Brod may have caused other Republicans to follow his lead.

Republican committee members assured him they had not secretly determined who they'd vote for, but neither Atkins nor Rukavina was convinced. Atkins said he'd heard differing versions of the meetings from Republican legislators, and that he wasn't alone in his suspicions.

"Others read it the same way -- that the fix was in, that the vote was in. ... We shouldn’t cast that shadow on these folks, who will be on what is perhaps the most prestigious volunteer body in the state."

Nornes said the process has always been somewhat partisan.

Atkins asked about the process of filing a motion to reconsider Brod's selection.

This afternoon, Brian Bakst of the Associated Press tweeted that the House debated whether Brod was properly nominated for her seat, but that it deferred a decision till a later date.

Regents candidates are scheduled for final approval Monday.