Renegade House members split from GOP caucus

A quartet of rural members of the Minnesota House say they will split from fellow Republicans and form their own caucus to oppose the incoming DFL majority.

Reps. Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa, Cal Bahr of East Bethel, Tim Miller of Prinsburg and Jeremy Munson of Lake Crystal notified House leaders Friday of their intentions.

In a message to his Republican colleagues Miller wrote, "I have come to the conclusion that the attitudes and actions by the HRC (House Republican Caucus) leader and some of his supporters have become too hostile toward me and has made it impossible to properly serve my District first and the State of Minnesota second. Those are my priorities."

"As we move into session my hope is that all of us Republicans will work together to defend the people in our districts from radical liberalism," Miller's message continued. "I for one will certainly not be working against any of you."

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Drazkowski told MPR News on Saturday that the split isn't about ideology. He said the move is in response to infighting and a difficult working culture with the current GOP leadership.

"It doesn’t change the fact we’re still Republican. As a matter of fact, our caucus of four is very committed to Republican ideals and values," he said. "We'll be working very hard to strengthen our party throughout Minnesota, strengthen party units and conservative organizations throughout the state so that we can win the election in two years instead of continuing on a course that could be very similar to the one (in November's election) that really just took 25 percent of our Republican membership in the House."

Drazkowski says the break-off group will be known as the "New House Republican Caucus."

"We're creating a work environment where we can have our own staff, we can work in a positive environment towards a positive goal about building Republican values, building the understanding of what Republicans stand for, and showing Minnesotans the value that we can bring to them, to help Minnesota be a better and stronger state," he said.

Drazkowski said he remains hopeful that the new caucus can rejoin the main Republican caucus at some point in the future.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, who will be the Republican minority leader when the new session gets underway in January, sent an email to Republicans Friday night saying the four members did not give him a heads up about their plans and that their actions will have consequences for how the House is organized.

"As a result of these members' actions, we will likely be forced to lay off additional staff and the incoming House DFL majority will reduce our committee slots," he wrote. "We had planned to notify you of your assignments Monday, but that will now be delayed."

Daudt added that he expected the four to continue to vote with their Republican colleagues.

"When Democrats push to increase taxes on gas and increase government control of our health care, we expect there will be 59 votes opposing those efforts," he wrote.

Democrats took control of the House in November and will have 75 seats. Republicans hold a single-seat edge in the Senate.

Under state law, the breakaway caucus won’t be on par with the standard House GOP and DFL. They won’t be entitled to a formal minority leader.