Urdahl and Heidgerken are getting a different view of the Minn. House

ST. PAUL -- When the House Republicans meet Saturday to select their caucus leader, it will be the first time that local legislators Dean Urdahl and Bud Heidgerken will be in the minority party.

ST. PAUL -- When the House Republicans meet Saturday to select their caucus leader, it will be the first time that local legislators Dean Urdahl and Bud Heidgerken will be in the minority party.

"It'll certainly be different," said Rep. Urdahl, a retired teacher from Grove City who was re-elected last week to his third term in office from District 18B. "I've been in the majority for four years."

Rep. Heidgerken, a retired teacher from Freeport representing District 13A, said if the Republicans had retained majority status in the House, he may have been given a chairmanship of a committee. "That's out now," he said.

Getting bills passed will be more difficult and will require some political creativity, Urdahl said. His history of being a "pragmatic legislator who tries to get things done" instead of a "partisan legislator" will help him find partnerships with DFL'ers during the next two years, he said.

Three men have reportedly tossed their hat into the ring for House minority leader: former House Majority Whip Marty Seifert from Marshall, former House Majority Leader Erik Paulsen from Eden Prairie, and Rep. Steve Smith from Richfield.


Both Urdahl and Heidgerken said they hope Seifert is selected as the Republican minority leader because he is from a rural district.

The "rural connection" is needed to offset the two "Minneapolis liberals" that have been selected to head the DFL caucus in the House and Senate, Urdahl said, referring to Sen. Larry Pogemiller and Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher. Pogemiller will be the new Senate majority leader, and Kelliher will be speaker of the House.

Heidgerken said he prefers Seifert's rural perspective over the other metro House members, but said he most likely won't be meeting with his caucus on Saturday to cast a vote.

Heidgerken said he typically doesn't go to Republican caucus events. Although he's been re-elected three times as a Republican, he ran as a Democrat in 1988.

"I'm an independent cuss," said Heidgerken, explaining his lack of gusto for participating in the process to select a party leader. He's been endorsed by Democrats and Republicans in the past and, he said, "I've had my problems with both parties."

Heidgerken admits he never saw eye to eye with Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum, a rural legislator from Kenyon. He said he expects a smooth transition in the shift of power under the new DFL leadership of Speaker Kelliher. "She's very open. She's very outgoing. She's not all Minneapolis," said Heidgerken.

"I get along very, very well with the Democrats. I get along very, very well with the Republicans," said Heidgerken. "What I don't like is the bickering."

Heidgerken said he was impressed that the DFL leadership called him this week with a proposal to implement a bill he had unsuccessfully brought to the Legislature in the last session. The plan is to put the new freshmen members of the House on a bus and take them on a tour of the state to see everything from a taconite mine up north to an ethanol plant in farm country.


Heidgerken and Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, have been tagged to be the tour leaders.

The goal is to show metro legislators that the state is bigger than Minneapolis and St. Paul and to show rural legislators important state assets outside of their own districts. Juhnke said helping legislators get to know each other to create a "kinder and gentler" House is the ultimate goal.

Urdahl, meanwhile, said he's working on plans to bring metro big-hitters, like Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, to Litchfield later this week to show them different aspects of agriculture, including the dairy industry.

Urdahl said he intends to make his third attempt at passing a bill that would offer a tax incentive for dairy farmers who make improvements to their facilities. Such legislation would help the estimated 70,000 jobs that are affected in Minnesota by the dairy industry, he said. He's hoping that metro politicians who learn about farming first-hand will serve as ambassadors to agriculture and use their influence when they talk to urban legislators.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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