Amy Jean Klobuchar
Job: U.S. senator from Minnesota
Born: May 25, 1960, in Plymouth, Minn.
Which makes her: 58
Home now: Marcy-Holmes neighborhood in Minneapolis.
Faith: Congregationalist, United Church of Christ.
Education: Wayzata High; Yale University; University of Chicago Law School.
Occupation: Lawyer. She was a partner at the law firms of Dorsey & Whitney and Gray Plant Mooty.
First elected position: Hennepin County attorney in 1998, defeating Sheryl Ramstad Hvass in the closest race of her career, winning with 50.42 percent of the vote. She was re-elected in 2002 with no opposition.
Elected to the Senate: 2006, replacing Mark Dayton. She was the first female senator elected from Minnesota and is now in her third term.
Spouse: John D. Bessler, married in 1993. He is a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law.
Children: A daughter, Abigail Klobuchar Bessler, who is the legislative director for New York City Council Member Keith Powers.
Books authored: “The Senator Next Door: A Memoir from the Heartland,” published in 2015, and “Uncovering the Dome,” published in 1986.
Notable: Her father is retired Star Tribune columnist Jim Klobuchar, who grew up on the Iron Range. Her mother, Rose, was a schoolteacher. Klobuchar served as a legal adviser to former Vice President Walter Mondale, an early mentor.
Eight things to know about Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar, Minnesota’s three-term senior U.S. senator, announced Feb. 10 that she is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. She joined an already-crowded field that includes several of her female colleagues in the Senate: Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Here are some things you need to know about Klobuchar.
- Klobuchar says she got her start in politics after the birth of her daughter: In 1995, Klobuchar’s daughter was born during a brief period when health insurance plans allowed new mothers only a 24-hour hospital stay. Even though it was clear that Abigail had a problem nursing due to a condition that prevented her from swallowing, Klobuchar had to leave the hospital while Abigail stayed behind. The next legislative session, Klobuchar testified in favor of a proposed law to force health plans to allow new mothers to stay in the hospital for 48 hours. When insurance lobbyists tried to delay the law, she packed the hearing with pregnant women and their children. The proposal passed in Minnesota and President Bill Clinton signed a similar measure into federal law in 1996.
- Klobuchar is a former prosecutor: Before her career in the Senate, Klobuchar served as Hennepin County Attorney, the top prosecutor in Minnesota’s most populous county, from 1999 until 2006. During Klobuchar’s tenure, the office focused on aggressively prosecuting career criminals and repeat offenders across a broad range of crimes, including theft, drunk driving, violent crimes and child support delinquency. Her office also focused on prosecuting gang crimes and child pornography. She ran unopposed for reelection in 2002.
- Prior to that, she was a registered lobbyist in Minnesota: According to records from the state Campaign and Public Disclosure Board, she was registered as a lobbyist for eight clients at various times between 1986 and 1998, the Star Tribune reported during her first U.S. Senate bid in 2006. Klobuchar said at the time her work was related to her law practice at a prominent Minneapolis firm. Her clients included Ford Motor Co., Hearing industries Association, MCI, the Minnesota Association of Community Rehab Organizations and the Minnesota Habilitation Coalition.
- She has a reputation as a moderate Democratic senator: In 2010, Klobuchar was rated the 50th most conservative senator and 49th most liberal member of the Senate (Al Franken was not seated in time to be included), according to National Journal’s vote rankings. During the Obama administration, she was a reliable supporter of the president’s agenda, voting for the 2009 stimulus package, the Affordable Care Act and the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial system overhaul. By 2018, Govtrack, a website that tracks and analyzes the bills and votes of federal lawmakers, rated Klobuchar the 66th most conservative senator. There were 15 senators in the Democratic caucus rated more conservative than Klobuchar and 33 ranked more liberal — including several of those seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination.
- Klobuchar reaches across the aisle: According to Govtrack, Klobuchar introduced more bills than any other Senate Democrat in the last session of Congress. She also had bipartisan cosponsors on more bills than any other Democratic member. While her party is in the minority, she introduced seven bills that were signed into law during the 2017-18 session, the third most in the Democratic caucus. Some of the subjects of her bills that became law include: female entrepreneurship, human trafficking and water infrastructure. She also co-sponsored three bills with Republican senators to fight the opioid crisis signed by President Trump.
- Klobuchar has won support from Republican voters: As she cruised to re-election by a 24-point margin in 2018, Klobuchar won about 1,250 precincts in Minnesota that President Donald Trump carried during the 2016 presidential election. In many areas of the state, voters split their tickets — casting a ballot for Klobuchar while also voting for the Republican opponents of now-Gov. Tim Walz and Sen. Tina Smith. Some conservative pundits who oppose President Trump, including Washington Post columnist George Will and blogger Jennifer Rubin, have written favorably about Klobuchar. Last year, Vox wrote that Klobuchar is “probably the most popular politician in America.”
- She is the daughter of longtime Star Tribune columnist Jim Klobuchar: A native of Plymouth and former Wayzata High School valedictorian, Klobuchar has written and spoken openly about her father’s struggle with alcoholism and its impact on her family. Jim Klobuchar retired in 1995. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, she spoke about her family history during a tense exchange with Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh about his drinking during his confirmation hearing last year. After Klobuchar asked Kavanaugh if he had ever been “blackout drunk,” he demanded to know if she had. When Kavanaugh later apologized, Klobuchar responded that, “When you have a parent that is an alcoholic, you are pretty careful about drinking.”
- Her tenure has been largely scandal-free: However, Politico reported that her office had the highest turnover rate among senators between 2001 and 2016, according to data from Legistorm, which tracks congressional staff salaries. During her first Senate campaign in 2006, the union local representing her staff in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office sent a letter to union leaders asking that she be denied the endorsement of its parent group, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), citing low morale in her office and “a hostile work environment,” the Star Tribune reported. The next day, the statewide AFSCME organization endorsed Klobuchar for Senate.
The Star Tribune has obviously written a lot about Klobuchar over the years. Here are five standout stories from key moments in her career.
- Oct. 16, 2018: “High profile and seeking a third term” by Maya Rao.
“After a dozen years in the Senate, Klobuchar’s part in the Kavanaugh drama pushed her further into the Washington spotlight. Already frequently mentioned as a presidential prospect for Democrats in 2020, Klobuchar can expect that speculation to intensify if she wins in November.
Even as her national image grows — the Kavanaugh hearings earned her a “Saturday Night Live” portrayal, which led to a People magazine article — Klobuchar has continued to pursue a work-across-the-aisle, pragmatic style of politics. The opioid legislation is an example of the kind of broadly supported, consumer-style issues that she has made a brand, even in the face of historic rancor between Republicans and Democrats in Congress.”
- Sept. 28, 2018: “Where is the bravery in this room?” by Maya Rao.
“For Klobuchar, her Friday speech and the subsequent success in delaying a final vote on Kavanaugh were the latest in a handful of spotlight moments during two days of historic hearings — perhaps the most dramatic convergence of politics and the #MeToo movement to date.”
- Dec. 7, 2014: “Klobuchar quietly climbs Washington ranks” by Allison Sherry.
“She’s already elevated her profile to the point where her name surfaces whenever there is a top Obama administration vacancy. She travels regularly to Iowa, a must-stop for presidential aspirants. Over the past two years, Klobuchar trekked to a dozen states, delivering keynote speeches and raising money for other Democrats — essential relationship-builders for pols on the rise.
But now she’s facing a dramatic new political dynamic that she must master if she is to advance. When the new Congress is seated in January, Republicans will control the Senate and House and she will be in the minority party for the first time in her tenure.”
- April 12, 2011: “Klobuchar taking no chances in re-election bid” by Kevin Diaz.
“At a time when Congress is more polarized than ever, Klobuchar is marching toward reelection next year as one of the most popular incumbents in the nation, having carved out a comfortable niche in the middle between the raucous extremes that dominate daily cable TV news.
A Republican challenger has yet to emerge, even as the Minnesota GOP hammers at what it calls the "myth" of her moderate image, connecting her to a voting record that largely aligns with more left-of-center Democrats like Sen. Al Franken.
But as Klobuchar pursues the pragmatic politics of constituent service and bipartisan dealmaking, she faces some frustration on the left, particularly among gay activists and environmentalists who see her playing it safe in the middle of the road.”
- Oct. 8, 2006: “Painful times with dad helped Klobuchar create drive to succeed” by Josephine Marcotty.
“The first two times Amy Klobuchar's famous father was arrested on a charge of drunken driving, she was just a kid. When it happened again, in 1993, she was an adult and a successful attorney. This time she could do something for him.
They met with an addiction counselor just days after Jim Klobuchar, a columnist for the Star Tribune, had prostate surgery. As he lay on a couch, she built her case: She described the birthdays he had missed, how she had searched for him when he disappeared from her college graduation, the times she had taken away his car keys, the damage that he had inflicted on his marriage.
Then she walked over and hugged him. "I love you, Dad," he recalls her saying. "But you have to change."
The determination she showed then is at full throttle now in the political fight of her life, a nationally watched U.S. Senate race.”
-- Matt DeLong