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The Hopefuls: Julianne Ortman, U.S. Senate candidate

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota U.S. senators, Democrats, Republicans Updated: September 19, 2013 - 7:02 PM

"Hi, I'm Julianne," Julianne Ortman said again and again over the sound of a live Dixieland band at Cajun garden party and fundraiser for a Republican group recently.

As Ortman wended her way through dozens of suburban local activists, her high heels sinking slightly into the soft lawn, the new Republican U.S. Senate candidate left off her last name. It's not that Ortman, a four-term state senator from a suburb way across town, is well known. It's that she's not and can define herself anew in Republicans' minds.

One of five Republicans running against Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken, Ortman defines herself as "practical and thoughtful conservative."

The former state Senate tax chair, who was challenged for party endorsement last year but trounced her opponent in a primary, contrasts that with being an 'angry conservative.'

"You can be conservative but you don’t have to be angry about it and I think that’s what’s going to help me be a very successful candidate for the United States Senate," Ortman said in an interview.

On issues, she strikes conservative but non-absolutist stances.

Regarding the federal health care law, known as ObamaCare, she said: "There are some things about that that are good but I think that when you engage in a conversation in such a comprehensive way, you are going to see some things that people like and you are going see some things that people don’t like. And I think, overall, the system doesn't work."

She said giving people with pre-existing conditions protection and extending dependent care to adult children up to age 26 are positive changes. Mandating coverage is not.

"I'm not a full repeal person. I think the House of Representatives has voted 40 times to repeal it. The Senate is not going to repeal it. So if plan A is 'Let’s do a repeal,' we better start talking about Plan B. Because plan A got nowhere," she said. Ortman said she would like to see Congress go "piece-by-piece through that new law and figure out what works and what doesn't."

Ortman said on immigration that she believes congress could reach bipartisan consensus on securing the borders and allowing children brought to this country illegally the opportunity to attend colleges, a controversial provision known as the DREAM Act.

Despite that, Ortman voted against the Minnesota version of the DREAM Act, called the Minnesota Prosperity Act, this year. That measure, which passed the DFL-controlled Legislature and was signed into law, allows undocumented students to get instate tuition and financial aid as long as they meet certain conditions.

"I want to help them but I believe this bill is premature because the federal government hasn't acted yet...we should not pass laws that conflict with the federal government," Ortman said on the Senate floor this spring. She proposed delaying the state bill's enactment until the federal government creates a path to citizenship. That proposal failed.

Ortman also presented a nuanced view of the 'Right to Work' proposal that roiled the Legislature when Republicans were in charge in 2012. She said that measurel, which ultimately lacked the votes to pass, was "probably ill timed" and "complicated."

"Unions have a very important role to play in the private economy," she said. "There are some unions at a state level that are important to continue like the law enforcement unions and I think the others...there is some reform that needs to be done."

Asked how she would have voted had it reached the full Senate, Ortman said: "I’m not going to comment on that state issue right now...I don’t think it is something that federal elected officials make a decision on I think it is something that state elected officials make a decision on."

In the Republican field, Ortman is vying against businessman Mike McFadden, St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg, state Rep. Jim Abeler and former small business owner Monti Moreno.

"The Hopefuls" is an occasional series featuring candidates who are running for office in 2014. 

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