The news that Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) will retire at the end of the current cycle rather than seek reelection is being shouted from the rooftops in Washington D.C.’s pundit class — but does it have any real effects on Minnesota?
Well, maybe. Minnesota shares not only a border, but a small metropolitan area (Fargo-Moorhead) with North Dakota. Political ads that air in one town also appear in the other, so a competitive race on one side of the border could affect turnout on the other — as could effective field work by any of the four state parties involved.
On policy matters, the move means that Al Franken, who is currently at the bottom of the Indian Affairs Committee seniority heap, will move up. After Dorgan, Hawaii’s Daniel Inouye is next in line, but he already chairs two other committees. Next is North Dakota’s other Senator, Kent Conrad, but Conrad also chairs the influential Budget committee. Next? Hawaii’s other Senator, Daniel Akaka, who also chairs the Veteran’s Affairs Committee. Only when you reach South Dakota’s Tim Johnson do you find a Democrat who’s not already chairing another committee.
So unless something drastic happens in the U.S. Senate (which is not likely to happen in the 2010 cycle), Franken will find himself at least one rung further up the ladder on this committee.
The same goes for Amy Klobuchar and the Commerce Committee, where several senior Democrats stand between Dorgan’s current seniority and where Minnesota’s senior senator now sits.
However, in an institution where seniority is next to godliness (paging Joe Lieberman), this could be seen as a decent thing for Minnesota as long as the Democratic caucus maintains a strong majority.