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.
January 23, 2006; 12:55 PM ET
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