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Republican House members, including Miller, form new caucus

Tom Cherveny Tribune/ Representative Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, will caucus with three colleagues as the New Republican Caucus when the legsilature convenes in January. He is shown as he debated the issues with his DFL challenger, Lyle Koenen of Clara City in Benson on Oct. 15.

PRINSBURG — State Representative Tim Miller is among four Republican House members who announced they will be caucusing separately from their party as the New Republican Caucus.

Miller, of Prinsburg, joins Reps. Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa, Cal Bahr of East Bethel and Jeremy Munson of Lake Crystal in forming the caucus. They informed House Speaker Kurt Daudt of their intentions on Friday.

News of the split was first reported Saturday by Brian Bakst of Minnesota Public Radio. Bakst reported that Miller wrote to colleagues that "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."

Miller stated in the letter that he continues to hope that all Republicans will continue to work together.

The decision comes as the DFL took control of the House by a 75 to 59 majority in the midterm election.

Miller told the Tribune that the decision to caucus separately was not issue driven. "This is really a conflict in philosophies of leadership style and the way that things operate,'' he said.

Miller said he has not had a direct conflict or arguments with Rep. Kurt Daudt, who will serve as House minority leader when the legislative session begins in January. But Miller said he has pressed for changes in the Republican caucus that he didn't feel were being addressed.

"Yes, we are caucusing separately, but this is really more about me having, I believe, the freedom to properly serve my conscious and my constituents better," he told the Tribune.

In a letter to Republican caucus members, Daudt expressed concerns that the split could result in a reduction of legislative support staff. Miller disputes this. Legislative staff are assigned to legislators as individuals and this change will not result in any staff reductions, he said.

The split will mean that the four New Republican Caucus members will likely be located in offices alongside one another, and seated in the House together as well.

Miller said it will not affect his committee assignments, which will be made by the new House majority leader, Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park. He has requested the same committees as he served on during the last session.

Miller said he wants his constituents to know first of all that he remains a Republican. "I will still be working alongside my fellow Republicans,'' said the local legislator. He added that he expects to continue working together with State Representative Dave Baker, R-Willmar, on matters important to the district.

He likened the decision to caucus separately as being not unlike the formation of the Blue Dog coalition years ago in Congress.

"I've heard loud and clear that people don't like politics being played and I believe this is going to free me up to be able to serve my district with a transparency and with forthrightness and honesty, so that's why I decided to do this,'' said Miller.

Miller said he did not personally anticipate others will be joining the four. He said the four are friends and have worked together, and decided they need to work in a slightly different way.

He also noted that it's very important in the legislature to work with others to get things accomplished, and that means working with people from both parties. "Politics is a group effort. We need to know how to work together across the aisle. That's what people want us to do,'' Miller said.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335