Big money, big players in Minnesota Senate campaign

Amy Klobuchar
DFL Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar, shown at a Senate DFL candidate forum in Virginia, Minn., on Saturday, has not yet picked up donations from Senate Democrats, but that should change now that former rival Patty Wetterling has dropped out of the race.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

(AP) Republican lawmakers and Emily's List have emerged as big early players in the Minnesota senate race, an Associated Press review of campaign finance reports shows. More than two dozen current and former congressional Republicans have given GOP candidate Mark Kennedy about $150,000, while Emily's List has raised a similar amount for Democratic candidate Amy Klobuchar.

"This is going to be one of the real critical Senate races," said Norm Ornstein, a political analyst at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "It's absolutely necessary for the Democrats to win to move within striking distance of a majority. If Republicans can bag the seat, it seals the majority."

Rep.  Mark Kennedy
As of Dec. 31, eight GOP lawmakers had donated the maximum $10,000 to Mark Kennedy through their political action committees, including Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman's Northstar Leadership PAC.
MPR file photo

Democrats currently hold the seat, but Sen. Mark Dayton is not seeking re-election.

As of Dec. 31, eight GOP lawmakers had donated the maximum $10,000 to Kennedy through their political action committees, including Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman's Northstar Leadership PAC. Twenty-two of the Senate's 55 Republicans have contributed to Kennedy's campaign.

"My colleagues in the Senate realize that he will be an asset to both Minnesota and our nation, and I look for him to have a successful bid in November," Coleman said in a statement.

Klobuchar, by contrast, has not yet picked up donations from Senate Democrats, but that should change now that former rival Patty Wetterling has dropped out of the race. Klobuchar still faces Democratic opponent Ford Bell, but he is considered a long-shot candidate.

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"Amy Klobuchar will have the resources she needs to win - and she's going to win," said Phil Singer, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "She will enjoy the support of her future colleagues."

For now, Klobuchar has gotten a big boost from Emily's List, which raises money for female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights by asking its 100,000-plus members to contribute to its endorsed candidates. So far, 1,600 members have contributed a total of $148,000 to Klobuchar, according to her campaign.

"It is extremely important to our members to help Amy Klobuchar be elected to the U.S. Senate," said Emily's List spokeswoman Ramona Oliver. "This is a definitely a top priority for us."

Brian Nick, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, had a similar take on the race.

"Mark Kennedy's seen as one of the best candidates in the country for Republicans," he said. "There's a lot of enthusiasm."

On March 1, White House aide Karl Rove will headline a private lunch for Kennedy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, at a cost of $2,000 per PAC and $1,000 per individual.

Ornstein, the political analyst, said he expects that both parties will pressure senators to contribute to the race.

"You will see the overwhelming majority of senators weighing in on this," he added.