Democrats see Michigan and Minnesota as guides for what to do with majority power

Aug 7, 2023, 5:37 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Fueled by election gains, Democrats in Minnesota and Michigan this year enacted far-reaching policy changes that party leaders in other states are looking to as a potential roadmap for what they could swiftly achieve with similar control.

Gun safety packages, expanded voting rights, free meals for all students, and increased protections for abortion rights and LGTBQ+ people were just some of pent-up policy proposals that Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law within months under the new legislative majorities.

“We’ve definitely paid attention to what they’ve done,” Pennsylvania state Sen. Sharif Street, chair of the state Democratic party, said about the two states. “I’ve offered to Pennsylvanians that if we could flip the Senate, we could pass similar legislation.”

Democrats in four states, including Massachusetts and Maryland, scored victories in the 2022 midterms to gain a “trifecta” — control of the state House, state Senate and the governor’s office. Republicans, who held trifectas in 19 more states than Democrats just six years ago, now hold an advantage of 22 states to the Democrats’ 17.

Ahead of the 2024 election, Democratic leaders in Pennsylvania, Arizona and New Hampshire are hoping similar election gains can help them achieve trifectas. They’re looking to Michigan and Minnesota, where leaders have been unapologetic about quickly rolling back years of Republican measures and implementing their own liberal agendas.

“This is the first time in 40 years that we’ve had this opportunity,” Whitmer said of Michigan Democrats, who last held a trifecta in 1983. “This is a huge step forward that we’ve taken.”

Michigan Democrats were able to flip both chambers with the help of new districts redrawn by a citizens commission instead of ones crafted by Republican lawmakers and a ballot proposal enshrining abortion rights into the state constitution that led to record midterm turnout.

The power shift in Michigan and Minnesota comes as statehouses nationwide have grown even more polarized. In GOP-led states, leaders have focused this year on rolling back LGBTQ+ rights, tightening abortion access, protecting gun rights and waging a war on what some have called “woke” agendas.

Whitmer, who spoke with The Associated Press last week, said she hopes voters in other states see that “you can lead with your brain and also be a kind person in the process.” She added an oft-repeated phrase of her second-term that “bigotry is bad for business.”

The quick work by Democrats in the two states was due in part to uncertainty over how long the full control will last considering voters could decide to flip state House majorities back to Republican control as soon as next year. Michigan and Minnesota Republicans are already strategizing to regain some power in the 2024 elections by calling out what they say have been overly partisan sessions.

In Michigan, Republican legislators in the House and Senate out-raised Democrats in the first part of 2023, led by the efforts of former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. Minnesota Republicans, who lost a majority when Democrats won a decisive Senate district by only 321 votes, have criticized Democrats for excluding them from a legislative session that ended in May.

“The issues, I think, are still on the table. It’s public safety, it’s education, it’s tax relief. And the Democrats did not deliver on any of those promises or expectations,” said Minnesota GOP Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson.

The key Democratic leaders in Minnesota — Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic — decided to act swiftly, knowing they might not get another chance for a long time if they hesitated. Their last trifecta, in 2012-13, lasted only two years, but they’re betting that this year’s successes will prove popular with voters come 2024.

House Democrats, who have a six-seat majority, kept a big checklist on the wall of their caucus room of their top 30 priorities for the session. They started checking them off in January, including a big abortion rights bill. By the end of the session in May, all 30 had been checked off, including the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults; drivers’ licenses for all regardless of immigration status, tax cuts aimed at lower-income workers and spending increases for education, transportation and other infrastructure, affordable housing, child care, and public safety.

Leaders in the state were among those invited to the White House to brief the president’s advisers on legislation, including a paid family and medical leave program, that the Biden administration would like to enact nationally if not for a divided government.

“If you need a reminder that elections have consequences, check out what’s happening in Minnesota,” former President Barack Obama tweeted earlier this year.

National leaders are hoping that the liberal swing in the Midwest continues in 2024. The party is hosting the Democratic convention next year in Chicago and voter sentiment after two years of unchecked liberal policy in Michigan and Minnesota could have an enormous impact on national politics; recent presidential races have hinged on the critical Midwestern “blue wall,” which also includes Wisconsin.

President Joe Biden applauded Michigan for passed over a decade ago by a Republican-controlled Legislature.

Major legislation, such as the right-to-work repeal, has only been possible in Michigan due to strong party discipline with Democrats only holding a two-seat majority in each chamber.

State Rep. Joe Tate, who is Michigan’s first Black speaker of the House, said the Democratic caucus began the year by finding legislation all members could agree on with.

“This is legislation that we’ve been talking about for, if not years, decades. So it helped to prioritize where we needed to go at the beginning of this session,” said Tate.

Michigan Democrats have already passed many of their top priorities only halfway through this year’s legislative session, including a 11-bill gun safety package that had stalled in the Legislature for years.

Winnie Brinks, the first female Senate majority leader in Michigan history, called said it was an “intense six months” and that Democrats don’t plan to ease up the rest of the year. Future legislation, Brinks said, will include a focus on climate and the environment in addition to more work on reproductive rights.


Cappelletti reported from Lansing, Michigan. Associated Press reporters Steve LeBlanc in Boston and Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland, also contributed to this story.

United States News

Associated Press

Dozens of animals taken from Virginia roadside zoo as part of investigation

NATURAL BRIDGE, Va. (AP) — Over 100 animals –- both living and dead -– have been taken from a roadside zoo in western Virginia, according to court documents, as part of what state authorities are calling a criminal investigation. One search warrant executed Wednesday at the Natural Bridge Zoo in Rockbridge County shows that 89 […]

18 minutes ago

Associated Press

Some Seattle cancer center patients are receiving threatening emails after last month’s data breach

SEATTLE (AP) — Some patients of a Seattle-based cancer center received threatening emails following a data breach last month. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center officials said a Nov. 19 hack hit a portion of the health care system’s clinical network, possibly leaking patient data. This week, some former and current patients received threatening emails claiming names, […]

55 minutes ago

Associated Press

South Carolina jury convicts inmate in first trial involving deadly prison riots

BISHOPVILLE, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina jurors have found an inmate guilty of charges connected to the death of a fellow inmate during the deadliest U.S. prison riot of the past quarter-century. The Lee County jury deliberated less than an hour on Friday before finding Michael Juan “Flame” Smith guilty of assault and battery by […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Police fatally shoot man who officers say charged them with knives in West Texas

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — Officers investigating a domestic disturbance fatally shot a man who they said ran at them with knives in West Texas, police said Saturday. Manuel Guillen, 34, died at a hospital following the shooting in Lubbock Friday night, police spokesperson Amber Edwards said. Edwards said the officers were responding to a report […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Minnesota grocery store clerk dies after customer impales him with a golf club, police say

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minneapolis store clerk died after a customer beat him and impaled him with a golf club, police said. The 66-year-old clerk was attacked Friday at the Oak Grove Grocery, a small neighborhood store in a residential area near downtown Minneapolis. A 44-year-old suspect is jailed on suspicion of murder. Police responded […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Two Indiana police officers are acquitted of excessive force in 2020 protesters’ arrests

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two Indianapolis police officers were acquitted early Saturday of using excessive force to strike two women with batons during arrests at a May 2020 protest against racial injustice and police brutality. Officers Jonathan Horlock and Nathaniel Schauwecker had been charged with battery and official misconduct in the case. They were among officers […]

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Dierdre Woodruff

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Follow @KTAR923...

West Hunsaker at Morris Hall supports Make-A-Wish Foundation in Arizona

KTAR's Community Spotlight this month focuses on Morris Hall and its commitment to supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Arizona.



Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.

Democrats see Michigan and Minnesota as guides for what to do with majority power