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Minn. Senate: Democrat Klobuchar Gets a Boost

Democrats got a major boost over the weekend when child safety advocate Patty Wetterling dropped her primary race for Minnesota's open Senate seat in favor of frontrunner Amy Klobuchar, the attorney for Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis.

Wetterling, who is widely known across the state for advocacy prompted by her son Jacob's abduction in 1989, began the race as a seeming co-frontrunner with Klobuchar for the nomination but was never able to match the latter's fundraising capacity -- especially after the pro-abortion rights powerhouse EMILY's List endorsed Klobuchar last fall. At the end of October, Klobuchar had nearly $1.4 million in the bank compared to $289,000 for Wetterling.

"I am therefore taking myself out of the United States Senate race to ensure that we come together, pool resources and unite our efforts to win in November," Wetterling said at a Friday news conference in Minnesota."

It remains to be seen whether Wetterling will reconsider her decision to run for Congress in the open 6th District. National Democrats and EMILY's List had encouraged Wetterling to run for the House seat this cycle after she ran a solid but unsuccessful 2004 race against incumbent Mark Kennedy (R). Kennedy is leaving the seat to seek the Republican nomination for the seat of retiring Sen. Mark Dayton (D).

With Wetterling out of the picture, Democrats' hand is strengthened considerably in the race.  Wetterling appeared ready to run to Klobuchar's ideological left, forcing the frontrunner to adopt positions that could come back to hurt her in a general election match-up against Kennedy. A race between the two women would also have sapped resources from Klobuchar as she still remains less known statewide than Wetterling.

The lone remaining hurdle for Klobuchar is the potential candidacy of wealthy trial lawyer Mike Ciresi, a possibility that continues to grow more remote with each passing day Ciresi remains out of the race.

Ciresi did not return a call seeking comment Monday morning. He could be following Dayton's successful 2000 blueprint. In that race, Dayton announced his candidacy in April 2000 -- well after the seven other Democrats -- and skipped the party's nominating convention to focus on the September primary. Using his massive personal wealth, Dayton cruised to the nomination with 41 percent compared to 22 percent for Ciresi, who spent $5 million from his own pocket.

For much of the current election cycle, Republicans have insisted Minnesota is perhaps their top pick-up opportunity and argued Monday that with or without Wetterling this remained a top-tier chance for them. "In anointing Ms. Klobuchar, the Democrats have staked themselves to a candidate who has been unwilling to tell voters her position on the key issues facing Minnesotans," said Kennedy.

One interesting sidenote for the true political junkies out there: The end of Wetterling's candidacy means that her campaign manager -- Carol Butler -- is once again a free agent. Butler managed Rep. Debbie Stabenow's (D-Mich.) 2000 victory over first-term Sen. Spencer Abraham (R). She is extremely well thought of among Democratic operatives and would be a major catch for any candidate this late in the game.

By Chris Cillizza  |  January 23, 2006; 12:55 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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Comments

Check out this editorial from the Mesabi Daily News in MN about the MN Senate Race.

-------------------------------
http://www.virginiamn.com/mdn/index.php?sect_rank=8&story_id=205526

Bell won't roll over in campaign
New York senator intervenes in Minnesota

Mesabi Daily News
Saturday, January 28th, 2006 12:06:56 AM

Minnesota U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Ford Bell has made it clear that he doesn't intend to just quietly concede the party's nomination to frontrunner Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar.

When children's advocate Patty Wetterling abandoned her quest for the Senate nomination last week and announced support for Klobuchar, national Democratic leaders pretty much declared the race was over. The national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, chaired by New York Sen. Charles Schumer, had said the way was now clear for a Klobuchar nomination victory.
But not so fast, said the longtime community activist who considers himself the grassroots candidate fighting for the soul of the Minnesota Democratic Party.

"Last Thursday (Jan. 19) you sent an e-mail to Minnesota congratulating Amy Klobuchar on being the only remaining DFLer in our state's race for the U.S. Senate in response to the announcement that Patty Wetterling had decided to drop out of the Senate race. I was stunned and disappointed to see you use such a negative and bald intimidation tactic to try to clear the rest of the DFL field in the Minnesota Senate race.

"I am in this race to win, because there is a clear choice for our party to make as it decides what interests it wants to represent. Will it be the party of connected insiders, or will it be the party of the people?" he wrote in part.

We like Ford's spunky response to what was either an uninformed Schumer or a meddling Schumer trying to declare from New York the Minnesota race over.

We also wonder if Schumer's e-mail caused Bell to have a change of heart as to his decision of whether or not to go the primary route should he not get the party's endorsement.

In an interview with the Mesabi Daily News a couple of months ago, Bell was unequivocal that he would not run in a primary in September if he failed to secure the party endorsement this coming June. But that seems to have now changed.

"A primary contest fought on the battleground of issues and conviction between Amy Klobuchar and myself will allow us as a party to have a positive debate on the issues," he wrote in the letter to Schumer.

Two months ago Bell had ruled out a primary challenge. But not so now.

Either he changed his own convictions on that issue or else the New York senator's intrusion into the state Democratic Party race riled him up so much that to now seems to relish a party primary fight.

If it's the latter and a primary contest ensues -- as Klobuchar does clearly seem to be on her way to the endorsement -- then Schumer will have managed to divert some much needed funds from the November contest against likely Republican Senate candidate Rep. Mark Kennedy to a September primary race.

If so, what a dumb political blunder by the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Posted by: james | January 29, 2006 9:42 PM | Report abuse

Below is Ford Bell's response to Klobuchar's "coronation":

-------------------------------------------

Bell to National Democrats:

Don't Meddle in Minnesota Politics

This is a fight for the soul of the DFL Party.

MINNEAPOLIS - U.S. Senate Candidate Ford Bell says national Democrats are trying to corrupt the DFL's nomination process, and he is demanding they stay out of Minnesota's DFL endorsement process. Bell says the primary battle for the spot on the ballot is a fight for the "soul of the DFL Party."

In a letter to New York Senator Charles Schumer, the Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Bell said he was stunned to hear that the national party had declared that Patty Wetterling's withdrawal from Minnesota's U.S. Senate race had left the field clear for Amy Klobuchar.

"I was stunned and disappointed to see you use such a negative and bald intimidation tactic to try to clear the rest of the DFL field in the Minnesota Senate race," Bell said in the letter to Schumer. "As Democrats we both know that the strength of our party comes from the courage of our convictions, the integrity of our candidates, and our respect for the democratic process. You are a powerful man and you have a great amount of responsibility to help elect Democrats. I caution you to not corrupt Minnesota's process."

Bell says there is a bigger issue at stake than who represents the DFL Party on the ballot in November. He is calling this primary a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party. "...DFL'ers can make a clear choice as to what type of leader they want to have speaking for them in Washington. Will they vote for the Washington insider's candidate or will they vote for the grassroots people's candidate"

Bell repeated his call for a series of debates with his DFL opponent Amy Klobuchar, "To quote Mark Twain: "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated." I can assure you that there will be a DFL primary for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota. I have challenged Amy Klobuchar to a series of debates across our state. I await her response."

A copy of Bell's letter to Schumer is attached.

###

January 22, 2006

The Honorable Charles Schumer
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Schumer:

The heavy-handed party politics of New York and Washington D.C. have no place in Minnesota while members of the DFL Party choose their leaders through a time honored grassroots process that begins with the caucuses. This is the very process that raised Paul Wellstone from obscurity to the Conscience of the Congress. I believe that you and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are attempting to circumvent that process with a negative and cynical attempt to put your own candidate on the ballot.

Last Thursday you sent an e-mail to Minnesota congratulating Amy Klobuchar on being the only remaining DFL'er in our state's race for the U.S. Senate in response to the announcement that Patty Wetterling had decided to drop out of the Senate race. I was stunned and disappointed to see you use such a negative and bald intimidation tactic to try to clear the rest of the DFL field in the Minnesota Senate race.

I am in this race to win, because there is a clear choice for our party to make as it decides what interests it wants to represent. Will it be the party of connected insiders, or will it be the party of the people?

As Democrats, we both know that the strength of our party comes from the courage of our convictions, the integrity of our candidates, and our respect for the democratic process. You are a powerful man and you have a great amount of responsibility to help elect Democrats. That is why I am surprised that you would attempt to corrupt Minnesota's process.

A primary contest fought on the battleground of issues and conviction between Amy Klobuchar and myself will allow us as a party to have a positive debate of the issues. Then the Minnesota DFL'ers can make a clear choice as to what type of leader they want to have speaking for them in Washington. Will they vote for the Washington insider's candidate or will they vote for the grassroots people's candidate?

One thing is certain - a coronation in January is premature.

To quote Mark Twain: "The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated." I can assure you that there will be a DFL primary for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota. I have challenged Amy Klobuchar to a series of debates across our state. I await her response.

I understand that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has a keen interest in this race as it attempts to build a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate and I look forward to working more closely with you after I win the Primary.

Until then I anticipate that you will respect the DFL Party's grassroots nomination process for the next Democratic Senator from Minnesota.

Sincerely,

Ford Bell

Candidate for U.S. Senate - Minnesota

Ford Bell for US Senate PO Box 583039 Minneapolis, MN 55458

Posted by: Knute | January 24, 2006 3:17 PM | Report abuse

I believe that if you're going to use this particular term, it should be "pro-abortion-rights," since a compound adjective before a noun should be hyphenated. Not that people usually observe this rule -- I don't normally see, for example, "blue-state Senator" written very often.

Whether "pro-abortion-rights" is the correct term for any group is a question that I would think is almost certainly addressed in the Post's style manual.

Posted by: dbeach | January 24, 2006 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Fred:

The terminology used in this article is "pro-abortion rights." If the article instead said "pro abortion-rights" then I think you'd have a point, although even then it's using pro-life talking points. I've never seen another Post source use such terminology and, frankly, I think it's disturbing.

Posted by: Colin | January 23, 2006 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Correction to previous post:
The Minnesota DFL State Central Committee met Saturday, January 21, not the 20th.

For non-Minnesotans, DFL is the abbreviation for "Democratic Farmer-Labor" Party, the official title of the party which fields "Democratic" candidates in Minnesota. For more than three decades in the first half of the 20th century, Democratic Party candidates ran third in statewide races - behind Farmer-Labor Party candidates (some of whome were elected to the state governorship and other state constitutional offices as well as to the US Senate) and Republican party candidates. Not until the merger of the Democratic and Farmer-Labor parties did "Democrats" begin winning in Minnesota statewide races.

Posted by: Knute | January 23, 2006 4:26 PM | Report abuse

There are still other Dems in the race; Klobuchar doesn't have the field to herself.

Al Franken has never entertained the idea of running for Senate in 2006. He's looking at the 2008 race against Norm Coleman the slime-weasel who benefitted from dishonest distortions and exploitation of Paul Wellstone's death to win the race. Franken and Wellstone were good friends. Franken gets his biggest applause speaking when he mentions Wellstone, and sometimes tears up when talking about him.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | January 23, 2006 4:03 PM | Report abuse

You ommitted any reference to the candidacy of Ford Bell, the veterinarian who chastised Klobuchar as "(NY) Senator Schumer's boy" at the DFL State Central Committee Saturday, January 20 (where Wetterling and Klobucahr got prolonged standing ovations). As the opnly remaining pro-Peace candidate, Bell should run well in the core cities where precinct caucuses are still well attended.

Posted by: Knute | January 23, 2006 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Good catch on the headline jDs. We'll update.

Posted by: washingtonpost.com | January 23, 2006 3:17 PM | Report abuse

What about Al Franken?

Posted by: Al fan | January 23, 2006 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Shouldn't the headline be:

"Minn. Senate: Democrat Klobuchar Gets a Boost"

Not sure how Wetterling got a boost by dropping out, although it was the right thing to do.

MN would be lucky to have her running in the 6th!

Posted by: jDs | January 23, 2006 2:58 PM | Report abuse

For what it's worth, I agree with Matt in St. Paul. The headline has it backwards. Wetterling's name shouldn't even be in it.

Posted by: lpdrjk | January 23, 2006 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I resent how both parties stifle competition within their nominating process and try to impose unity. In New York for example I'm delighted that Thomas Suozzi is poised to change Eliot Spitzer for governor in the New York Democratic primary. Where is it written that party nominations should be a coronation? Politics at its best is a competition for who has the best ideas. The public is better served by more choices.

http://www.intrepidliberaljournal.blogspot.com

Posted by: Intrepid Liberal | January 23, 2006 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I think the headline of this entry is misleading... it's Amy Klobuchar who got the boost from Wetterling exiting the race, not Patty Wetterling herself.

Posted by: Matt in St. Paul | January 23, 2006 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Another candidate seeking the DFL nomination is Ford Bell. He has long been active in the state DFL party, I believe, but has never run for office. I don't know what role, if any, he'll play in this race, but clearly he wants to be a part of it.

His website: www.fordbell.com

Posted by: Phil | January 23, 2006 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Colin, Kevin:

Read the article a little more closely. It doesn't call anyone "pro-abortion" -- it calls the group "pro-abortion rights." That seems to me to be pretty accurate and neutral.

Posted by: Fred App | January 23, 2006 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Get ready MN, you are about to see some of the cheesiest ads this side of Kraft Parmesan. In '04, Mark Kennedy ran blatantly pro-family ads showing him with his umpteen children all saying how wonderful he is - not really mentioning his stand on the issues - just Mark is a great husband and father - blah blah blah. I truly hope he runs those same ads, thereby turning off voters in the Twin Cities and suburbs. A good husband and father does not a good Senator make. See Rick Santorum.

If Klobuchar runs a good campaign, she will win.

Posted by: Sean | January 23, 2006 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Chris:

Abortion related language is important to people on both sides of the issue. I know you value being viewed as neutral - perhaps you should consider describing each group as they describe themselves: "pro-choice" and "pro-life" respectively. That strikes me as a fair and neutral way to handle things, as opposed to what you've been doing lately.

Posted by: Colin | January 23, 2006 1:25 PM | Report abuse

I believe the candidate from Minnesota is "Pro-Choice" not "pro-abortion."

I'm sure many readers would take offense if you called a Republican candidate "Anti-Choice" instead of "anti-abortion."

Posted by: Kevin | January 23, 2006 1:10 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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