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Former President Bill Clinton waded into the three-way DFL primary battle in the Eighth District Friday to endorse Tarryl Clark.
"I am proud to support Tarryl Clark for Congress," Clinton said in a statement, throwing his support behind the congressional candidate who isn't his party's endorsed nominee. "Tarryl's focus for almost 25 years has been improving Minnesota. I am confident she will bring the common sense solutions we need to Washington."
While Clark's campaign celebrated such a high-profile endorsement just weeks before the Aug. 14 primary, her opponents saw shades of 2008 in the decision to bypass the endorsed DFL candidate in the race, Rick Nolan.
Clark was an enthusiastic support of Hillary Clinton's presidential run. Nolan ...was not.
"There's a lot of politics involved in these things," said Nolan spokesman Michael Misterek. "Rick was Obama's spokesman in Minnesota."
It wouldn't be the first time a Clinton endorsement revived the 2008 Obama-Clinton contest. Earlier this year, the Washington Post noted that in six races where Clinton threw his support to one Democrat over another, his endorsement went to a former Hillary Clinton supporter over a former Obama backer.
"We have an enormous amount of respect for the former president," Mistereck said, noting that the Nolan campaign has secured plenty of high-profile endorsements of its own. "The most important thing is the amount of support Rick has inside Minnesota."
Clinton's endorsement letter also highlighted Clark's work with groups like the Children's Defense Fund, which Hillary Clinton had also worked for in the past.
Clinton's endorsement comes just days before he is scheduled to come to Minnesota to headline the Humphrey-Mondale Dinner and fundraiser for the DFL. Nevertheless, state party leaders are standing behind their endorsed candidate, Nolan.
"We're very confident that the people of northern Minnesota have chosen the right candidate in Rick Nolan," said DFL spokeswoman Kate Monson. "The most important thing is that we have a candidate who can defeat Chip Cravaack."
The Minnesota Republican Party, meanwhile, reacted with undisguised glee. A GOP press release described Clinton's endorsement of Clark as an "out-of-stater" endorsing an "out-of-towner" -- a reference to Clark's decision to move to the Eighth District to challenge Cravaack.
Clark -- a prodigious fundraiser who has far outpaced DFL rivals Nolan and Jeff Anderson -- was already leveraging the endorsement in another round of fundraising e-mails.
"I am immensely proud to have President Clinton's endorsement," Clark said in a statement.
Jennifer Brooks • 651-925-5049