Since he knocked off a well-regarded incumbent DFLer in the 2010 race for Senate District 56, Ted Lillie has quietly established himself as a respected player in the chamber’s GOP caucus. One telling indication: The 55-year-old political newbie was the lone freshman lawmaker included in the contentious 2011 budget negotiations with Gov. Mark Dayton. Another: In 2012, the GOP caucus selected him as an assistant majority leader and as majority whip.
While Lillie is new to elected office, he is seasoned in the world of business and philanthropy. For the past two decades, Lillie has been the publisher of Lillie Suburban Newspapers, a family-owned chain of 11 weeklies in the St. Paul suburbs. He has also served on the boards of numerous corporations, charities and civic organizations, including the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.
When the 2012 redistricting put Lillie’s Lake Elmo home in the district of a veteran colleague, Lillie decided to pack up and move to nearby Woodbury, where he has filed to run for an open seat in District 53 — a likely indicator of his determination to remain in elected office.
In some circles, “lobbyist” suggests a pejorative, but that’s not the way Erin Murphy sees it. Long before her election to St. Paul’s House District 64A in 2006, Murphy, who is a registered nurse by training, got her practical introduction to government as a lobbyist for the Minnesota Nurses Association. After honing her political chops, the self-professed public policy wonk went to work as the legislative director for Attorney General Skip Humphrey.
In 2005, Murphy added to her educational resume, receiving a master’s degree in organizational leadership in health from the College of St. Catherine. Her twin backgrounds in health care and public policy have made her one of the Capitol’s go-to legislators on the health care front. In 2010, when the state’s medical assistance program for poor adults was on the chopping block, Murphy was widely credited for the accord that led to its partial rescue.
As one of the Legislature’s most prolific and followed tweeters, Murphy, 52, has also shown a willingness to venture into socially and politically charged territory. Last session, she was an articulate champion of an ultimately unsuccessful effort to force Minnesota to follow the suit of 28 other states and require that health insurers provide contraceptive coverage.
Elected along with 33 other House Republicans in the great GOP wave of 2010, Kurt Daudt has not been the most vocal of his cohort. But behind the scenes, Daudt, 38, has asserted himself as one of the caucus’s influential members and a respected opinion leader — one reason he was selected by his fellow freshmen for the post of House assistant majority leader.
Daudt, who lives on a family farm in Isanti County, received his education at the University of North Dakota, where he studied aviation management. Politically, he got his start on the Stanford Township Board before moving on to the Isanti County Commission. He also became involved in state GOP, where he is now vice chair of the executive committee. After Tim Pawlenty decided not to run for a third term as governor, Daudt signed on to manage the 2010 gubernatorial endorsement campaign of former state Rep. Marty Seifert.
In addition to his legislative duties, Daudt is the co-founder of Project 24, a church-based charity that has raised more than $1 million to build “orphan rescue centers” in Kenya. The effort got its start in 2006, after Daudt and a Lutheran pastor shared a cab driven by a Kenyan native, who told them about the crisis in his native country.