MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — St. Louis County Board Chairman Chris Dahlberg, who bills himself as a pragmatic fiscal conservative, has become Minnesota’s latest Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Al Franken.
Dahlberg said by phone Wednesday that he had planned to wait to formally announce his candidacy until closer to when he retires from the U.S. Army Reserve on Oct. 1, but he was outed this week when Stanley S. Hubbard, chairman and CEO of Hubbard Broadcasting, disclosed his support for the Duluth attorney in a note to friends and colleagues.
Dahlberg is the first GOP candidate in the race from outside the Twin Cities metropolitan area. He chairs the board of a county that sprawls over 7,000 square miles of northeastern Minnesota, a traditional Democratic stronghold, and represents a Duluth district that leans Democratic. He won re-election last year with 60 percent of the vote and two major union endorsements, from the Duluth Building and Construction Trades Council and Teamsters Joint Council 32.
The major is also an Iraq War veteran with more than 25 years in the Reserve. He served in Baghdad in 2004 and 2005, working in economic development.
Dahlberg said it might seem a stretch to some people to make the jump from a county board to the U.S. Senate, but he sees it as a logical move for someone who supports returning government to the local level.
“I’m boots-on-the-ground local government. … I think the idea of a one-size-fits-all solution from Washington, D.C., just doesn’t make sense,” he said.
And while he said he’s found himself on the losing side of some 6-1 votes on the county board, he said he has a record of working across the political divide. He described his west Duluth district as being made up of “hard working blue collar Democrats. I describe them as people who are compassionate for the truly needy but don’t have much tolerance for foolish spending.”
Other GOP candidates in field so far include two legislators — Sen. Julianne Ortman of Chanhassen and Rep. Jim Abeler of Anoka. Businessman Mike McFadden of Sunfish Lake, making his first run for political office, is also seeking the Republican nomination. He’s on leave as co-CEO of Lazard Middle Market, a financial management firm.
Dahlberg acknowledged that raising enough money to mount an effective campaign for the party nomination and then to unseat Franken will be challenging, given that he’s not well known outside of northeastern Minnesota. Franken has been one of the Democratic Party’s most successful fundraisers with $3 million in the bank as of July 1, while McFadden raised more than $750,000 in June alone.
But Dahlberg said the early support from Hubbard — whose family owns KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities, WDIO-TV in Duluth and several other TV and radio stations across the country — will help. And he said people were already coming up to him on the street Wednesday and telling him they’ll contribute when he formally launches his campaign.
“While money’s important it’s not the only thing,” he said.
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