Wetterling Seems Intent On Making Senate Bid

Posted June 15, 2005 at 6:29pm

If it was not clear before, the entrance of Democrat Elwyn Tinklenberg into Minnesota’s 6th district race this week appears to definitively signal that 2004 nominee Patty Wetterling will not seek the open seat.

Although Wetterling has aggressively been campaigning for the Gopher State’s open Senate seat, quiet efforts to change her mind and rumors that she would eventually back out persisted.

Now that Democrats have Tinklenberg, a conservative former mayor and state official running in the Republican-leaning district, speculation about Wetterling’s intentions has finally ceased.

“We certainly wish Patty Wetterling the best in her Senate race. She ran a great campaign last time and I’m sure she will again with her Senate race,” said Bill Burton, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Elwyn Tinklenberg makes a great candidate who fits the profile of the district and who’s independent like the voters are there.”

Wetterling did not join Minnesota Reps. James Oberstar and Collin Peterson on Tuesday in endorsing Tinklenberg but the two are old friends, and many political observers are convinced she will eventually back him.

“I think El is a great candidate for the 6th district and wish him all best,” she said in a statement.

Then, to drive home the point that the Senate is her sole focus, she added: “In a short period of time we’ve been able to attract 10,000 donors to my Senate campaign that follows on the footsteps of our poll showing us leading [likely Republican nominee Rep.] Mark Kennedy in a general election match up by 9 points.”

Wetterling commissioned a poll in February that showed her beating Kennedy statewide 47 percent to 38 percent.

And for good measure, Wetterling is also closing her Congressional campaign account.

That decision puts EMILY’s List in a bind.

The women’s group supports female Democratic candidates who back abortion rights. Last year it endorsed and raised money for Wetterling against Kennedy in the 6th district, but this time Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, another Democrat who supports abortion rights, is running for the Senate too.

“The quarter is not over yet, we’re going to wait and see how that it all turns out,” EMILY’s List spokeswoman Ramona Oliver said, referring to the approaching June 30 deadline for Federal Election Commission reports. “We’re watching the race, waiting to see how it develops; there’s no definitive timeline [for the group to endorse a candidate] yet.”

Both Wetterling and Klobuchar posted impressive fundraising numbers in the first quarter, but if one significantly outraises the other this quarter, it could influence who EMILY’s List and some other liberal organizations ultimately decide to support.

Real estate developer Kelly Doran, a wealthy political neophyte, and philanthropist Ford Bell are also seeking the Democratic Senate nod.

Wealthy trial attorney Mike Ciresi, who unsuccessfully ran for the Senate nomination in 2000, is reportedly interviewing staff for a possible second attempt, the newsletter Politics in Minnesota reported last week.

Newly installed state Democratic Party Chairman Brian Melendez said Wetterling’s denials — and even an endorsement of Tinklenberg — “probably won’t end the speculation” about her changing her mind and running for the House. But clearly he and the DCCC are not expecting her to change course.

“The party will not try to be getting Patty Wetterling out of the Senate race,” Melendez said.