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Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent will leave leadership position, won't seek reelection

The announcement comes as Kent faces criticism over the party's handling of recent allegations of sexual harassment by a former staffer.
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Minnesota Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent will step down from her leadership role and will not seek reelection next November.

Kent, a DFLer from Woodbury, announced her departure from the role Thursday, citing a need to focus on personal matters, including taking care of her mother.

“The decision to retire at the end of my term next year was a difficult one, but it is in the best interest of my family,” Kent said in a statement.

“I’ve reflected on this over several months, and with a bit of distance, since session ended, it became clear that I need to prioritize my family and can’t commit to another four-year term. With that decision, I have also decided to step down as Senate DFL leader to give the new leader the time they’ll need to continue fighting for the shared values we all hold dear.”

Kent was first elected to the Senate in 2012. She became the minority leader when Sen. Tom Bakk, I-Cook, stepped down from the role and left the DFL party to become an independent.

According to the announcement from the Senate DFL, the party will meet on Sep. 13 to elect a new minority leader, with Edina Senator Melisa Franzen and Minneapolis Senator Scott Dibble already having thrown their names into the hat.

In recent months, Kent has faced controversy in the Senate amid allegations of sexual harassment by former DFL staffer Cynthia Callais, who detailed the claims in a Minnesota Reformer story.

Callais claims Clay Schwartzwalter, who has served as Kent’s campaign manager, made repeated, unwanted sexual advances toward her while she was working in the Senate.

Kent’s leadership position’s responsibilities include investigating such allegations. But Callais said her complaints were never investigated despite her bringing them to her employer and human resources.

Schwartzwalter denies the allegations.

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Kent’s announcement came the same day as the Senate began an outside investigation into the matter, according to the Minnesota Reformer. Employment attorney Patricia Sifferle of Mendota Consulting will reportedly handle the probe.

Kent will not be the only Senate leader to vacate her position. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka announced Wednesday he plans to leave his leadership in the caucus.

Gazelka’s announcement is likely a signal that he plans to run for governor in 2022, though he has stated he plans to wait until the State Fair is over to make a formal announcement. 

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