BEMIDJI -- Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chair Ken Martin is making visits across the state of Minnesota ahead of the 2020 election.
Unlike in past election cycles, though, the DFL chair is making his visits virtually.
Earlier this week, Martin spoke with the Pioneer to review both the Legislature's three sessions and what's expected in this year's election in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Joining Martin in the visit was Bemidji Mayor and State Senate District 5 candidate Rita Albrecht.
Regarding recent events, Martin expressed disappointment on the lack of a bonding bill being passed by the Legislature.
"A bonding bill typically is not a political issue, Democrats and Republicans have typically put bonding bills forward to help invest in critical infrastructure around the state," Martin said. "Many of these projects have been in the cue for years now. The longer you wait to build these projects, the more expensive they become. We can invest in these projects now during a time of low interest rates that can save taxpayers money."
The 2019 and 2020 sessions in Minnesota featured a split Legislature. The Republicans controlled the Senate while the DFL had the House of Representatives.
After the 2016 election, the GOP had controlled the Minnesota House with 77 seats and the DFL with 57. But after the 2018 election, it flipped, with the DFL having 75 seats to the GOP's 59.
The GOP has been in control of the Senate since the 2016 election. The GOP currently has 35 seats to the DFL's 32.
Since 2010, the governor's office has been held by the DFL, first being Mark Dayton followed by Tim Walz in 2018.
For the upcoming election, Martin said the DFL is adamant in support of voting by mail and expanding the ability for people to do so.
"From the party's perspective, one of the things we've seen this spring, before and even after the pandemic started," Martin said. "We've seen record turnout at primaries and caucuses throughout the country. If you talk to the electorate, many would say it's the most important in their lifetime.
"We're expecting in Minnesota, which always has the No. 1 turnout in the country, will set a record high turnout as well," said Martin. "Our concern about turnout revolves around the pandemic itself. We don't want people to have to risk their health to participate in their own democracy."
During the visit with the Pioneer, Martin also talked about divisions between the metro area and Greater Minnesota.
"One of the things I've been pleased with about Gov. Walz is One Minnesota isn't just a slogan, it's how he governs," Martin said. "I think that's important. Of course, there's a difference between where I live, Eagan, and Bemidji. We acknowledge those differences, but the reality is, we have much more in common and a set of values that is throughout the state."
On the subject, Albrecht referenced an organization of mayors she's part of featuring leaders from both the metro area and out-state Minnesota.
"We said we should start talking to each other because this whole rural-urban divide that people are using doesn't seem to be helping," Albrecht said. "We've been meeting together and we have a call every two weeks and we talk about those issues. We have these shared values. Everyone in Minnesota wants good schools for their kids, good housing for our families, safe streets for our communities and good infrastructure."