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Tracking Minnesota’s political scene and keeping you up-to-date on those elected to serve you

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz says he's running for governor

By J. Patrick Coolican

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz said Monday he is running for governor in 2018. 

Walz said in a phone interview that he brings a "passion for Minnesota" and a "proven ability to get things done working with other folks." 

A Mankato DFLer representing the First Congressional District, Walz was elected in 2006. DFL powerbrokers have been hoping Walz would run, given his ability to garner votes in greater Minnesota. Walz has been re-elected in tough Democratic years like 2010 but barely squeaked by in 2016 despite facing weak opposition. Walz ran ahead of DFL presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who lost the district by 15 points. 

After losing the state Senate in 2016 and falling deeper into the minority in the House, DFLers say much is riding on the 2018 governor's race. 

Walz, a retired high school geography teacher and retired command sergeant major in the Army National Guard, is also known as an energetic retail politician.

He won some acclaim among DFLers in 2004 when he was stopped and briefly hassled by Republicans while trying to enter a campaign event for President George W. Bush. Walz defeated longtime GOP Rep. Gil Gutknecht two years later. 

The Minnesota Jobs Coalition, a Republican aligned group that has helped turn the Legislature Republican, released a statement, calling Walz a "Washington insider": "With his 10-year record as a liberal rubber stamp, Walz won't fool anyone when he claims he's a moderate," said John Rouleau, the group's executive director. 

The attack is an attempt to preempt what will surely be a Walz campaign message, that he is not a typical DFLer. A gun owner who has been supported by the NRA, Walz has focused his energies in Washington on farm and military issues, including a recent appointment as ranking Democrat on the Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Walz said he would focus on issues like education, health care and transportation but first wants to hear from Minnesotans, espcially the seven congressional districts where he is largely unknown. Walz called the increasing geographic divisiveness of Minnesota politics a "false narrative" and touted his ability to bring Minnesotans together.  

He also said watching Washington political dysfunction has given him a new appreciation for state government: "A lot of important things are going to get done at the state level," he said.  

He joins State Auditor Rebecca Otto, Rep. Erin Murphy and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman in the DFL race. Others considering a run are U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, Rep. Paul Thissen and Attorney General Lori Swanson. 

No Republican has announced a run yet, but House Speaker Kurt Daudt, GOP Party Chairman Keith Downey, and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek are all said to be considering a bid.  

With Walz departing the First District, the open seat will be a prime pickup opportunity for Republicans given their relative strength there. 

Franken to vote against Gorsuch nomination

WASHINGTON - As Democrats line up to oppose Neil Gorsuch's confirmation to the Supreme Court, Sen. Al Franken is vowing to vote against Gorsuch and Sen. Amy Klobuchar appears to be leaning against him.

In an interview on WCCO this weekend, Franken said he feared that the federal appeals court judge from Denver would join Chief Justice John Roberts in making 5-4 rulings that favored corporations.

The senator criticized Gorsuch for his dissenting ruling in a case involving a trucker for TransAm, Alphonse Maddin, who argued that he was wrongfully fired for disobeying a supervisor’s orders to stay with a faulty trailer for hours in subzero temperatures. Concerned for his safety, Maddin drove away and was later fired.

“He really did not put himself in the shoes of that driver,” Franken said of Gorsuch.

The trucker, he added, “did what anyone would have done” and could have frozen to death otherwise.

The U.S. Circuit of Appeals last year ordered the company to rehire Maddin in a 2-1 decision.

During last week’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gorsuch stressed that he had followed the law of the case. “I said it was an unkind decision, it might have been a wrong decision, a bad decision, but my job isn't to write the law.”

Klobuchar will announce her decision later this week on whether to vote for President Trump’s nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia, but “she has serious concerns about Judge Gorsuch,” said a spokeswoman.

Democrats Klobuchar and Franken both sit on the Judiciary Committee, which is set to vote on Gorsuch’s nomination on April 3 before it goes to the full Senate.