By Mike Kaszuba
In defending himself over conflict of interest allegations, Sen. Satveer Chaudhary raised eyebrows Thursday when he told a crowd in Fridley that other prominent Minnesota politicians have had legal and ethical problems too.
And then he got specific: Naming Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Emmer and, more curiously, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the DFL’s endorsed candidate for governor. Chaudhary, a DFLer from Fridley, is supporting former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton in the DFL governor’s race.
The exchange occurred when an audience member asked Chaudhary whether he would consider withdrawing as a candidate for re-election given allegations that he used his office to insert an amendment to help improve the fishing on a lake in northeastern Minnesota where he has a cabin.
“I think that would be a sure-fire way for a Republican to take over this district,” said Chaudhary, who said he would not withdraw.
“Consider something: We have a Republican candidate for governor who has two DWI convictions – convictions,” said Chaudhary. (Emmer, a Republican from Delano, has two drunken-driving arrests dating back at least 20 years, and the arrests have been brought up by opponents during his gubernatorial campaign.)
“The current DFL candidate for governor has an established violation of the law in which she was fined $10,000. Now you tell me why [my problem]. . .somehow makes me less qualified than those endorsed candidates?” he said. (State campaign finance regulators in January fined Kelliher $9,000 – and the DFL party $15,000 – for sidestepping limits on campaign contributions.)
Chaudary’s own problems meanwhile may go beyond special fishing regulations. At Thursday’s meeting of Senate District 50 DFLers, at least one member of the audience criticized Chaudhary for not supporting Kelliher, the party’s endorsed candidate for governor. And other critics of the three-term state senator have argued that alone should be reason to strip away his DFL endorsement.
In answering the criticism, Chaudhary said: “The fact of the matter is that somebody has truly and honestly earned my endorsement. I’ve never even been asked by Speaker Kelliher for her support. . .I don’t hate her, I don’t dislike her.”
DFLers in Chaudhary’s district decided Thursday to hold a special meeting in a month to formally vote on whether his party endorsement should be rescinded.