All-female governor's ticket: Otto picks a running mate

Zarina Baber answers questions at a press conference.
Zarina Baber answers questions at a press conference after being announced as DFL State Auditor Rebecca Otto's running mate in the race for governor inside the State Office Building in St. Paul, Minn. on Monday, May 21, 2018.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Updated 1:14 p.m. | Posted 11:55 a.m.

State Auditor Rebecca Otto on Monday named her running mate in her bid for the DFL endorsement in this year's gubernatorial race.

Zarina Baber is an information technology and management consultant and a human rights advocate. She lives in Andover.

Rebecca Otto stands with her running mate, Zarina Baber.
DFL State Auditor Rebecca Otto, right, stands with her running mate, Zarina Baber during a press conference inside the State Office Building in St. Paul, Minn. on Monday, May 21, 2018.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Otto said Baber would be the first Muslim woman in American history to hold a statewide office.

"She understands how we could transform lives in Minnesota," the three-term Democrat said as she introduced Baber at the State Office Building in St. Paul. "We're going to work to renew Minnesota, and I have someone who is tried, tested and true, and is a bold leader as well."

Baber grew up in Hyderabad, India, and has been in the U.S. since 1976. She said she got her start in politics working as a volunteer for the campaign of former Minnesota DFL U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone.

Otto and Baber say they'll be the first all-female gubernatorial ticket in state history. However, two sets of women did run together as governor and lieutenant governor candidates in 2006, losing in primaries. Pam Ellison and Kari Johnson ran as Independence Party candidates; Sue Jeffers and Ruth Hendrycks sought the Republican nomination.

Otto is one of three candidates vying for the DFL endorsement this spring. They also include 1st District DFL U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, and state Rep. Erin Murphy, of St. Paul. Walz has already named his running mate, state Rep. Peggy Flanagan, DFL- St. Louis Park. Murphy said she plans to hold off on announcing a running mate until after the DFL endorsement is made on June 2.

Filings for state races, including for the governor's office, start Tuesday. The DFL convention will convene in Rochester, Minn., on June 1.

On the Republican side, several of the leading candidates have named running mates.

Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens picked state Rep. Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley, earlier this month. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson named Donna Bergstrom of Duluth, as his running mate last week.

Correction (May 21, 2018): Otto is a three-term state auditor. An earlier version of this story described her as a two-term auditor.

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