Wetterling Readies Senate Bid

Posted February 25, 2005 at 5:42pm

Former Minnesota Congressional candidate Patty Wetterling (D) took steps Friday toward running for Senate, forming a committee to raise money and releasing a poll showing her as the leading candidate for the state’s open seat.

“A United States Senator has the ability to have a profound effect on public policy issues that affect the daily lives of working families,” Wetterling said in a statement. “I have decided to actively explore a run for the U.S. Senate.”

Wetterling’s likely candidacy could also set up a rematch of last cycle’s 6th district contest, which she lost to Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) 54 percent to 46 percent.

Kennedy is the likely Republican nominee for the seat being vacated by Sen. Mark Dayton (D), who announced earlier this month that he is retiring after a single term.

Former Sen. Rod Grams (R) also is in the contest, while 1st district Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R) continues to weigh a bid.

Wetterling’s announcement came just hours after she released a poll Friday, conducted by the Mellman Group, which showed her leading all three potential Republican Senate candidates.

She had a 47 percent to 40 percent edge over Grams; led Kennedy 47 percent to 38 percent; and had a 47 percent to 29 percent lead over Gutknecht.

Wetterling’s current edge is likely due to her high-profile role as a national child safety advocate, which grew from the 1989 abduction of her son.

The polling memo pointed out that Wetterling ran the strongest of the potential Democrats against Kennedy in a Senate race.

Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar (D), who filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission last week, led Kennedy 40 percent to 38 percent; trial lawyer Mike Ciresi trailed Kennedy by 3 percent; while Rep. Betty McCollum would start in a 6-point hole.

The poll was in the field Feb. 15-17 testing 600 likely voters. It had a 4 percent margin of error.

Wetterling’s decision to run for the Senate deprives House Democrats of their strongest candidate to replace Kennedy in the 6th district, which takes in the suburbs north of the Twin Cities.

In 2004, Wetterling ran a surprisingly well-financed and competitive race but came up short in the GOP-leaning seat.

Three Republicans have already announced that they would run for the House seat.

Former Air Force Pilot Jay Esmay, state Sen. Michele Bachmann and state Rep. Jim Knoblach make up the current GOP field, though the number of candidates could grow.

Democrats mentioned include St. Cloud Mayor John Ellenbecker and Ted Thompson, a former chief of staff to ex-Rep. Bill Luther (D-Minn.) who began to run in 2004 but deferred to Wetterling.

If Wetterling chooses to forgo the Senate race and run for the House instead, she can use the money she raised for her Senate exploratory committee for a House run.