After 7 years, Tom Bakk out as Senate DFL leader

His successor is Sen. Susan Kent of Woodbury.
Senators Tom Bakk and Susan Kent.

Democrats in the state senate have a new leader: Sen. Susan Kent.

The Woodbury resident was elected Minority Leader in a party meeting on Saturday, officially ousting the long-serving Sen. Tom Baak.

The vote signals a major shift away from the Iron Range brand of the DFL towards its more liberal Twin Cities counterpart, as Bakk — himself an Iron Ranger — was known to break with fellow Democrats on issues like gun control and mining.

It also represents a milestone for the DFL; as MPR's Tim Nelson notes, Kent is the first woman to lead the Senate DFL in party history:

"This is an important year, we have a lot of important issues facing Minnesotans and we are committed to working hard to deliver for those people in our communities and to have a successful election in November," Kent said following her election to the post, per the Star Tribune. 

The paper says senators debated the change in leadership "for nearly six hours in a closed-door meeting" in St. Paul, with some concerned about the shifting politics of the senate DFL and others concerned about losing one of their "most experienced negotiators and campaigners in leadership."

Iron Range journalist Aaron Brown describes the vote as a "Shakespearean" rebellion, with the changing character of the party making Bakk's ouster inevitable. 

Bakk first assumed control as senate majority leader in 2013, and since then has also served as minority Leader (his post at the time of the vote to remove him).

There's been little comment so far from the actors involved, but congratulations did come from DFL Rep. Melissa Horton, speaker of the Minnesota House:

Kent was first elected to the state legislature in 2012. 

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