DFLer Erin Murphy picked as new Senate majority leader on cusp of session start

A senator stands and speaks into a mic
Sen. Erin Murphy speaks as the legal marijuana bill is debated at the State Capitol in St. Paul on April 28, 2023.
Ben Hovland | MPR News 2023

Sen. Erin Murphy will lead the Minnesota Senate DFL Caucus during the 2024 legislative session, members of the 34-member group decided Tuesday.

Democrats selected Murphy, of St. Paul, as the top figure in the caucus days after Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic announced that she would step down from the role to battle a recurrence of ovarian cancer.

Murphy, 63, previously was a House majority leader for the DFL back in 2013 and 2014. She held the DFL endorsement for governor in 2018 but lost to now-Gov. Tim Walz in a primary.

The new Leader-elect credited Dziedzic for her work in the 2023 legislative session in keeping the caucus together and passing DFL priority legislation.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

“She has ably led this caucus for more than a year in a transformative period for Minnesota and we owe her an amazing debt of gratitude,” Murphy said. “We are committed together, 34 members, to make sure that we are improving the lives of Minnesotans, we’re going to do that in Kari’s honor.”

Murphy won a Senate seat in 2020, where she is in a second term. The former nurse served six terms in the House before that.

Murphy didn’t take questions after she was announced as leader. DFLers made the selection in a closed-door caucus and didn’t share a vote tally. Fellow Democrats crowded behind Murphy as she made the announcement outside the Senate chamber.

The annual session begins Monday.

Murphy will have a prominent role in setting the course for the Senate’s agenda this year and attempting to keep members of the caucus in lockstep. Democrats hold a one-vote advantage over Republicans in the chamber.

She’ll also be central to negotiations with Walz and House Speaker Melissa Hortman on the important legislation.

Kari Dziedzic poses for a portrait
Kari Dziedzic.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News 2022

Dziedzic underwent emergency surgery in March after she was diagnosed. She worked remotely while she went through treatment and recovery. At the height of the legislative session in the spring, Dziedzic returned to push a slate of DFL priority legislation over the finish line.

Senate Rules allow her and other members to vote remotely as needed.

The top Senate position has undergone quite a bit of churn in the past two decades. Murphy is the 11th person to hold the title since 2003, some of it related to changes in party control. Prior to that year, DFL Sen. Roger Moe was the majority leader for 22 consecutive years.