Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is amassing a coalition of local leaders in her bid for the White House, giving the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul roles in the early stages of her campaign.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter recently returned from California, where he campaigned for Klobuchar and attended the presidential debate. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey has been on board from the start after helping kick off the third-term senator’s presidential campaign at Boom Island Park last year. Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, Moorhead Mayor Johnathan Judd and Mankato Mayor Najwa Massad have also pledged support.
With a field of more than a dozen contenders for the Democratic nomination and President Donald Trump running a largely anti-city re-election — including a public spat with Frey this fall — the hometown choice is a safe one.
“You really have nothing to lose by endorsing one of your own within the state,” said David Schultz, a political-science professor at Hamline University.
U.S. senators can help move federal money to both cities, and endorsing a politician who helps with that could be seen as a sign of thanks, Schultz said. Cross a local senator who wins office, he said, and you could risk ruining the relationship.
Carter waited nearly a year to take an official stance in the 2020 presidential race — though he said in a recent interview that he’s been talking to Klobuchar since early 2019.
“I, like all of us, have been watching really closely as the conversation grows and as the debates grow and have become very convinced that we need not only a candidate who can win; we need a real plan to not just oppose the current occupant of that office, but to address some of the day-to-day challenges that people in cities across our country face,” Carter said.
Carter is the state’s most prominent black officeholder to publicly support Klobuchar’s presidential bid. U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison have endorsed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Last month, Carter traveled to Los Angeles to campaign for Klobuchar’s Housing First plan, which includes proposals ranging from reducing wait times for Section 8 vouchers to raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Klobuchar’s plan “represents the boldest set of federal solutions I’ve seen proposed yet to say, how do we impact the lives of residents in communities across the country?” Carter said.
Frey said he was also drawn to Klobuchar’s housing policies and past performance in office. He counted Klobuchar among his constituents when he was a City Council member, and his mayoral administration includes some of her former staffers.
“Here’s the thing: At the end of the day, I want to win, and she has an unmistakable track record of winning in the exact places we need Democrats to win,” Frey said in an interview Thursday.
As a presidential candidate, she has garnered endorsements from prominent Minnesota lawmakers include Gov. Tim Walz, Sen. Tina Smith and U.S. Reps. Angie Craig, Dean Phillips, Collin Peterson and Betty McCollum — a level of local support that only New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker has matched in this presidential race, said J. Miles Coleman, associate editor of a nonpartisan political newsletter at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. And because Klobuchar is one of the few remaining Democratic candidates with rural appeal, he said, getting the central city mayors on board “reinforces her message of electability.”
Though Klobuchar has consistently polled and fundraised behind front-runners Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, her December debate performance drew national attention. Her fourth-quarter fundraising totals more than doubled the third quarter, and her poll numbers have hit double digits in Iowa, where the first caucuses of the 2020 presidential election are weeks away.
“When she’s in Iowa, her line is, ‘OK, well, I’m the senator from next door,’ ” Coleman said. “So it really plays well for her that it looks like she at least has her house in order.”