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“We’re the Antidote”: Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin on the “Minnesota Miracle”

The state just completed what may be the most progressive state legislative session ever, anywhere. And 2024 is looking good too.

Illustration by The New Republic

When it came to state legislative news this year, most headlines fixed our gaze on grim new laws restricting abortion and transgender rights in Texas, Florida, and so many other states. There was a good reason for that, of course: We need to keep careful track of the places where Americans’ rights are under attack.

But we shouldn’t forget to look for some good news. And in Minnesota, there’s plenty of it. Last November, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor, or DFL, Party recaptured control of the state Senate by one vote, while it held its majority in the state House (by four seats) and the governor’s mansion (incumbent Tim Walz). Seeing that the political stars were aligned, they decided to make the most of it.

The result was what a lot of people are calling the “Minnesota Miracle.” As The New Republic reported last week, the state has passed: stronger abortion protections, a paid family leave policy, a new child tax credit, restored voting rights for ex-felons, driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, the banning of “conversion therapy,” a $1 billion affordable housing bill, $1 billion for schools, and more. “We’re the antidote to a lot of what we’re seeing in states like Texas and Florida,” Martin says. It’s an amazing story—especially given that, as Martin noted, Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic was diagnosed with ovarian cancer during the session.

Martin himself—his guiding light is the late Senator Paul Wellstone—is part of the story. Minnesota may lean Democratic at the presidential level, but it has elected plenty of GOP governors. Under Martin, though, the DFL is four-for-four. And while the 2016 presidential race was a closer call in Minnesota than anyone thought—Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 1.5 points—in 2020 Joe Biden beat Trump by 7 percent. Says Martin: “I feel as good as I can about 2024.”