Retired Navy commander wades into Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race for GOP

A man poses for a photo outside
Republican Joe Fraser poses for a portrait outside Duluth City Hall on Tuesday where he spoke with reporters. The 50-year-old from Minnetrista announced Monday he's running for the U.S. Senate seat held by DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Clay Masters | MPR News

Updated: 3 p.m.

A retired Navy commander and political newcomer embarked Tuesday on a U.S. Senate campaign against three-term Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a race that has drawn little interest from established Republican officeholders.

Joe Fraser, 50, of Minnetrista, said the incumbent deserves a spirited challenge. He traveled to Duluth as part of a kickoff campaign that will be as much about introducing himself.

Fraser, who spent 26 years in naval intelligence, said he has worked in the business and banking sector since leaving the military. Since 2022, he has been president of the Minnesota Council of the Navy League of the United States, a nonprofit civilian group that assists families of people in sea branches of the military.

That career took him all over the world and led to many moves domestically. Fraser moved to Minnesota a few years ago, meaning he wasn’t living here the last time Klobuchar faced voters.

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He said he would make border security, inflation and the national debt a campaign focus. And he said he would make Klobuchar’s longevity an issue, too.

“Part of the problem that we get into politics is everybody thinks their seat is safe. That’s not very democratic,” Fraser said. “It drives me nuts when people just assume that the incumbent is going to when you have to earn it. And going for a fourth term is just — that’s a career politician whose biggest objective is just to continue to get reelected.”

Klobuchar has a bulging campaign account, with more than $4 million in the bank as of Oct.1. A new report is due to federal regulators this week.

In her three prior elections, she notched comfortable wins. In 2018, Klobuchar defeated former state Rep. Jim Newberger by 24 percentage points.

Klobuchar’s campaign issued a statement that, in part, said she’s focused on “delivering results for Minnesotans” on drug prices and veterans health care, and that she’s seen as a bipartisan collaborator on Capitol Hill.

Republicans hope this time is different and plan to use her national ambitions as a campaign messaging point. Fraser brought up Klobuchar’s 2020 White House run in labeling the incumbent as “a failed presidential candidate.”

Even so, Fraser didn’t underestimate the challenge during his introductory news conference, saying it is a “big task” and referencing the biblical story of David vs. Goliath.

He tried to avoid political rhetoric that could allow the opposition to paint him as ideologically extreme.

He said he personally opposes abortion but said women deserve to make choices about their care.

And on immigration, he said the borders need to be secure but he also pointed to the positive contributions that newcomers to America can make.

He said President Joe Biden legitimately won and said the Capitol storming by former President Donald Trump’s supporters was “a discredit to the Constitution.”

Unlike current members of Minnesota’s Republican congressional delegation, Fraser wasn’t yet ready to get fully — or at least publicly — behind Trump with the party’s primary season still in progress. He declined to offer an endorsement in the presidential race with voting ahead of Minnesota’s March 5 primary already in motion.

“I’m not gonna because we will have still have a process that we have to go through, right? So the delegates haven’t decided on who’s going to be the Republican nominee yet,” Fraser said. “So let’s allow that process to take place and when that happens we’ll know who the Republican candidate is going to be and then we can endorse.”

Fraser isn’t the only Republican who has taken at least steps toward a run. Four other candidates have filed campaign committees with the Federal Elections Commission.

The process of picking a nominee begins in late February, when active partisans head to precinct caucuses and people seeking to become delegates to the state party endorsing conventions start down the path.