Mike McFadden steps up against Sen. Franken

Mike McFadden
Republican businessman Mike McFadden announces that he will run against Democratic Sen. Al Franken in 2014 during a news conference Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at the State Capitol.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

The first Republican candidate has stepped forward to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken in 2014.

Mike McFadden, a business executive from Sunfish Lake, announced Wednesday that he filed the paperwork to form a campaign committee. He also outlined a campaign message that will focus on education, jobs and reducing the national debt.

Today's Question: Is Franken doing a good job?

On that same day, Rep. Michele Bachmann announced her decision to not seek re-election. McFadden joked that he had been waiting for a slow news day to make his announcement. He called the coincidental announcements symbolic.

"It's the end of one political career and hopefully the beginning of another political career for myself," McFadden said, "as we announce the forming of a campaign committee."

"Al Franken has now been in the Senate for four and a half years, and I have not seen any improvement in that."

He later clarified that his campaign launch was actually planned well in advance of Bachmann's announcement.

McFadden is co-CEO of Lazard Middle Market, a Minneapolis-based finance and asset management firm. The political novice said he will seek the Republican Party endorsement next year but has not ruled out running in a primary. McFadden said he is running because he sees a country that is not moving forward.

"I mean, we still have this stagnant economy. We have a massive amount of debt. Al Franken has now been in the Senate for four and a half years, and I have not seen any improvement in that," McFadden said. "And then when I look at education -- I think our education system is abysmal."

Education will be a key issue of his campaign, McFadden said. He repeatedly highlighted his experience on the board of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis.

But it's his business background in mergers and acquisitions that critics are highlighting. Ken Martin, state chair of the Minnesota DFL Party, said he believes McFadden's firm essentially helps its clients to downsize and cut jobs.

Mike McFadden
Republican businessman Mike McFadden announces that he will run against Democratic Sen. Al Franken in 2014 during a news conference Wednesday, May 29, 2013 at the State Capitol.
MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

"I don't know how you basically prove that you're ready and capable to go and legislate on behalf of the people of Minnesota, when your job basically was to help line the pockets of other ultra-rich individuals in this state and country at the expense of people that you laid off," Martin said.

McFadden stressed that his company advises other companies, some of which are in financial trouble, and makes no operational decisions. But in response to questions, McFadden did not specifically deny that his company's work has sometimes resulted in job losses.

"When a business is in trouble, it is a disaster if it goes bankrupt, Chapter 7 and is liquidated. Not just shareholders. Not just executives at those companies, but let's think about it -- employees, customers, suppliers. Everybody is hurt," McFadden said. "We're brought in to try to save it. That's what we do. We save jobs, and with a number of companies we create jobs."

McFadden said he will contribute some of his own money to the campaign, but did not say how much. He plans to raise enough money to be competitive, he said.

Franken has also been busy raising money. A statement from Franken's campaign manager, Matt Burgess, said that for now the senator is focusing on his job working for the people of Minnesota. Burgess also said Franken has a strong record of accomplishment and looks forward to making his case for re-election to voters in the upcoming months.

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