Top 9 Minnesota political stories from 2013

A handful of big stories dominated political news in 2013: The legalization of same-sex marriage, Democrats' return to power at the state Capitol, and the news machine that never stops, the Vikings' new stadium. Join us for a tour of those, and other favorite political stories through the eyes of our reporters.

1) A hopeful Congress reconvenes

Evan Vucci / AP

The 2013 political year started with the convening of the 113th Congress, covered by MPR News' Brett Neely:

"I asked the delegation whether things could get possibly get any worse than the 112th Congress. Almost everyone said, 'no way!' But I was skeptical and a year and a government shutdown later, I think that skepticism was justified," Neely said.

2) Troubles for Bachmann

Chris O'Meara / AP

The biggest news from U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's camp this year was her May retirement announcement, but her troubles began well before that. In March, reports surfaced that congressional ethics investigators were looking into her failed presidential bid.

"The Bachmann story has always been fascinating because of the colorful cast of characters she surrounds herself with. Case in point is Peter Waldron, a former aide to her presidential campaign who probably did more than anyone else to drive Bachmann to announce her retirement. Bachmann's had a long history of alienating former staff and in Waldron's case, it appears that management style came back to bite her," Neely said.

3) The failure of electronic pulltabs

Anthony Kwan / MPR News

Taxes on electronic pulltabs and electronic bingo were supposed to generate millions of dollars for the state's contribution to the new Vikings stadium. It didn't work out that way. As a result, state legislators were forced to enact new corporate taxes.

But while that plan flopped, there were winners: youth sport teams.

Related: What is Minnesota actually expecting the Vikings to pay?

4) Legislature passes, Dayton signs same-sex marriage bill

Jeffrey Thompson / MPR News

In a first for any legislative body in the Upper Midwest, the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill in May legalizing same-sex marriage.

"What is also truly remarkable is that the passage of the bill occurred roughly six months after voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage," reporter Tom Scheck said.

How did that happen so quickly? That's what reporter Catharine Richert set out to find in this story.

"I found that those final votes capped a frenzied and multi-faceted lobbying process that relied on celebrities, a key poll and personal appeals. On a separate note, this was my first story of note after 14 weeks of maternity leave. When I saw it posted online I thought 'OK. I can still do this.' What a relief!" Richert said.

Jennifer Simonson / MPR News

A few months later on Aug. 1, same-sex couples lined up to get married.

"I worked through the night to produce a story about the first couples to wed as the clock struck midnight. The emotions and energy in Minneapolis City Hall that night were memorable. I stayed up all night to produce the story for Morning Edition but when the tape's good, the story writes itself," reporter Sasha Aslanian said.

5) DFL returns to power, raises taxes

Tim Post / MPR News

After years of the DFL running the Legislature and the GOP in the governor's mansion (or vice-versa from 2010-2012), the DFL took control of state government after the 2012 election. The DFL-controlled Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton passed legislation into law that raised a host of taxes to balance the state's budget, pay for all-day kindergarten and spends more on plenty of state programs.

6) Dayton blasts Wilfs, defends stadium's benefits

Jeffrey Thompson / MPR News

In August, Gov. Mark Dayton appeared on The Daily Circuit for an hour-long interview and said what sounded like news: The Vikings' owners Zygi and Mark Wilf did not live up to the standards of integrity he would expect in a business partner.

"There was a little added pressure because reporters from competing news organizations came to MPR News to cover the interview and file their own stories. A routine part of my job is to write web versions of interviews we air, but they don't usually become full-blown news stories on a tight competitive deadline. It was fun, and I think our story was the best," said Eric Ringham, a digital producer for The Daily Circuit.

7) Proposed unionization of PCAs

Jennifer Simonson / MPR News

One of the bills passed in the 2013 legislative session allowed child care providers and personal care assistants to unionize, but the former garnered most of the headlines.

"This story gave me a chance to highlight the lesser covered PCA issue," said reporter Tim Pugmire. "It also gave me a chance to report outside of the Capitol on the work of these important care providers."

8) A look at the Board of Pardons

Jon Collins / MPR News

Created by the Legislature, the relatively obscure Board of Pardons has the ability to award what the legal system calls a pardon extraordinary, which removes the requirement that people with criminal histories have to report their convictions to potential employers or anyone else. Reporter Jon Collins sat in on one of the board's semiannual meetings in October:

"Although dozens of people were seeking pardons on the day I covered this meeting, the person who immediately stood out to me was Jeana Raines. She's a mother of three who was convicted of misdemeanors two decades ago that she says she committed only to clothe and feed her daughters. She's now unable to work because of a medical condition. Sometimes reporters get so wrapped up in numbers or political back-and-forth that we neglect to show how political institutions impact real people.

"I feel privileged that Jeana Raines was willing to tell me about her life and struggles, and hopefully it helped me tell a broader story about people like her that are actually affected by our political institutions," Collins said.

9) Abdi Warsame wins seat on Mpls. City Council

David Joles / The Star Tribune via AP

The 2013 election year was relatively quiet, with only a few city-wide races around the state. In Minneapolis though, a spirited mayoral race and the election of Abdi Warsame to the City Council livened up local politics in the home stretch of 2013. Warsame became the first Somali-American elected to the council and later said his election will "transform the way Somalis see politics."

More top news of 2013 lists:
Top 12 stories from the Twin Cities in 2013
Top 12 stories from Greater Minnesota in 2013
Top 11 Minnesota health and environment stories in 2013
Top 9 Minnesota arts stories in 2013

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