Sen. Susan Kent will not seek re-election and is stepping down as Senate minority leader, she announced Thursday.

The three-term incumbent also says she won’t run again for re-election

Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, who toppled Iron Range DFLer Tom Bakk, I-Cook, for her caucus’ top leadership slot in 2020, is retiring from office at the end of her term, she announced Thursday night.

She also said she is stepping down as Senate minority leader, leaving both of the Senate’s two top posts without permanent leadership just weeks before an anticipated fall special session to deal with frontline worker pay.

The Senate DFL caucus will meet on Monday, Sept. 13 to elect a new Senate minority leader, Thursday’s press release said.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, a likely GOP gubernatorial candidate, quit as majority leader Wednesday. He was replaced on an interim basis by Sen. Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks.

“Senator Kent will step down as the Senate Minority Leader to allow a new leader to step in and continue the important work still to do on behalf of the people of Minnesota,” the press release said.

Kent called the pandemic a key factor in her decision to end her 10-year Senate career at the end of her present term. COVID-19 has kept her separated from her mother, who is in a Texas nursing home, she said.

In her statement, Kent says:

“The pandemic has been hard on everyone — hard on millions of families — and mine is absolutely no exception. Throughout it all, I’ve tried my best to do two roles that I alone can do: be my son’s mother, and my mother’s daughter, in fact, her only family member. I’ve done the best I can, and my husband, Chris, has been amazing. However, COVID has complicated our lives in ways that I could not have foreseen when I stepped up to leadership. It’s been two years since I’ve seen my mother, and I’m deeply grateful for her care at an assisted living facility in Dallas where she’s been without direct family support. It is time to make changes in my life and put my family first.”

The decision to retire, she said, is in the best interests of her family.

Her statement makes no reference to allegations made by an ex-Senate staffer who accused another senator’s brother of sexually harassing her for months. Kent came under fire for what was seen as a slow response to those charges. Sen. Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, even resigned her post as assistant minority leader, citing problems with Kent’s leadership and her failure to immediately call for an investigation.

Kent said that, after the session ended earlier this year, she spent time reflecting, decided she needed to prioritize her family and could not commit to another four-year term in office.

Less than a year after Kent successfully challenged Bakk for the DFL’s top Senate leadership post, Bakk and fellow Iron Ranger David Tomassoni of Chisholm both bolted the DFL, became independents and began caucusing with the Republicans.

The defections gave the GOP what Gazelka has termed a “comfortable working majority.” Some are now mentioning Bakk as a wildcard candidate to replace Gazelka as Senate majority leader.

Session/Law logo by Kirk Anderson