A St. Paul real estate developer with a colorful past announced Monday he is running for U.S. Senate as an independent.
Jerry Trooien bought broadcast and newspaper ads around the state to announce his candidacy against U.S. Sen. Tina Smith. “While I believe America is still great, like so many of you, I am troubled by our politics,” Trooien said at a Capitol news conference.
“Sadly, the Democratic and Republican parties are broken,” he said. Trooien said he hopes to channel the kind of unconventional spirit that once spurred Minnesotans to elect Jesse Ventura — a professional wrestler not of the two major parties — as their governor.
Smith, the former DFL lieutenant governor, was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Mark Dayton, after former Sen. Al Franken resigned amid sexual harassment allegations. State Sen. Karin Housley is the only high-profile Republican to declare in the race against Smith.
A decade ago, Trooien was the public face of an ambitious effort to redevelop part of St. Paul’s Riverfront, the so-called “Bridges of St. Paul” project, which never got off the ground. He later went through bankruptcy proceedings.
At one point he told a bankruptcy court he owed creditors $284 million, with just $6.4 million in assets. Nevertheless he emerged from bankruptcy in 2011 holding key companies and properties.
In sometimes rambling answers filled with sports metaphors and references to Martin Luther King Jr. and Teddy Roosevelt, Trooien avoided policy specifics and talked about broader themes of civility: “This is the real infrastructure that needs to be repaired: truth and trust,” he said.
Trooien declined to reveal his net worth. He also was not willing to commit to spending the millions that both Smith, Housley and the two parties are expected to spend on the Senate special election this fall.
According to Trooien’s resume, he graduated from Harding High School in St. Paul in 1965 and had NFL contracts with the Redskins and Vikings before his career in real estate.