Ford Bell drops out of U.S. Senate race

Bell withdraws
Ford Bell dropped out of the U.S. Senate race Tuesday, and endorsed fellow DFLer Amy Klobuchar.
MPR Photo/Tom Scheck

In the end, Ford Bell couldn't get enough traction on his two major issues, withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year and creating a single-payer universal health care system.

For months, Bell tried to convince liberal DFLers that he had a clearer focus on those issues than Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar. But in the end, Bell couldn't catch fire with those activists.

Amy Klobuchar
Amy Klobuchar is the presumed DFL candidate for the U.S. Senate race in November 2006. The endorsed Republican is U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy.
MPR Photo/Laura McCallum

Bell blamed a lack of money as the main reason he's dropping out, and called for the public financing of campaigns.

"The corrosive influence of money is strangling American democracy," Bell said. "That our little outsider campaign almost raised $1 million and stood for issues that a vast majority of Minnesotans endorsed -- and yet couldn't compete -- is an indictment of the system we have. And we must change it."

Bell also fought an uphill battle trying to convince party officials that he should be a factor in the DFL primary. He said from the start that top Democrats in Washington and in St. Paul were convinced Klobuchar was the candidate to succeed retiring DFL Sen. Mark Dayton.

DFL State Party Chair Brian Melendez says Democrats in Minnesota didn't abandon Bell's campaign until he decided to forego the party endorsement. He says that led many Democrats to believe that Klobuchar was the best candidate.

"I think he's hearing some of the same things that people in the party were hearing -- which is, Amy's going to win this primary, and it's very important for the party to unite behind her and beat Mark Kennedy in the election," said Melendez. Bell's decision means Klobuchar has no challenge in the DFL primary at this point. The state's filing period for candidates ends on July 18.

The corrosive influence of money is strangling American democracy.

Klobuchar says the race is now between her and Rep. Kennedy, who won the Republican endorsement. She says she's pleased Bell endorsed her campaign, and is happy the party will unite behind her.

"This allows us to work together to elect a senator to put the people of Minnesota first, and it's always best to be united when you're going into an election," said Klobuchar.

Both Klobuchar and Kennedy have been raising millions of dollars, in anticipation of this fall's campaign. Some of that money will go to television and radio advertising.

Klobuchar will have more money to spend now that Bell dropped out. She was the first to hit the airwaves this week, with a 30-second ad touting her experience as a prosecutor and her professional background.

Officials with the Klobuchar campaign say the ads are running statewide, but wouldn't say where, or how much they're spending.

It's likely that Kennedy will soon counter with ads of his own.

Kennedy campaign spokeswoman Heidi Frederickson says there will be stark differences between Kennedy and Klobuchar. She says Bell took a strong stand on positions like the war in Iraq and health care -- something she says Klobuchar has not done.

"While Ford and Amy share most of the same issue positions, Ford spoke very clearly about his ideas, and his candor is going to be greatly missed on the Democratic side of this race," said Frederickson.

Kennedy faces a minor primary challenge from Apple Valley resident Harold Shudlick. Shudlick unsuccessfully challenged Kennedy for the GOP endorsement in June.

The next important signpost in the Senate race will be later this week, when the Senate candidates are required to file their campaign finance reports.

Both Klobuchar and Kennedy are expected to detail the millions more they raised, for one of the most competitive Senate races in the country.

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