Weber: Bruce and I served together 12 - different parties - but he's a good man and a good friend, and I'm sorry to hear he's ill, and I hope it's as easily treatable as the news said, and I just want to wish him well.Vento was unavailable to speak about his illness. In a written statement, he says his doctors have caught the cancer in the early stages. Staff members in Washington say Vento first noticed the symptoms about ten days ago, and didn't have a definitive diagnosis until this past weekend. He informed them of his intention not to run again in the past few days.
Sabo: He was somebody who originally was a biology teacher, and he's taken that interest from his academic background and made himself really the most knowledgeable person in the country on how we deal with our parks and public lands.When the Democrats controlled the House, Vento chaired the Parks and Public Lands Subcommittee, and he fought for extra resources to clean up and preserve areas such as the riverfront in St Paul, where he earned praise even from the Republican mayor, Norm Coleman. Mike Zipko is Coleman's spokesman.
Zipko: In order to develop the riverfront, we needed to make sure the river was healthy and clean, and Congressman Vento has been a strong and great friend of efforts to clean up the Mississippi, and as a result, we have an area now that's just absolutely coming to life.Vento's most visible environmental fight in recent years has been his effort to block motorized portages in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. In May 1998, Vento cut a deal with the Congressman from northeastern Minnesota, Jim Oberstar, to allow two truck portages in the BWCA, in return for the banning of motor boats from two other lakes. The compromise disappointed some of his supporters in the environmental movement, but he defended the decision during the 1998 election campaign.
Vento: I did a good job, and I'm getting a lot of positive feedback from the people in the community. You know, I'm a very strong environmentalist, and some of them are very passionate, but the fact is, I don't take my orders from anyone. I think we have to maintain our independence from these groups no matter how closely aligned we are in terms of philosophy or views.Vento also rates high praise from organized labor, which could usually count on him for support. Minnesota AFL-CIO president Bernard Brommer says Vento was instrumental in stopping many Republican-sponsored pieces of legislation, such as an effort to allow company-run unions, and another to make it harder for unions to deduct money for political activities from their members' paychecks.
Newinski: Vento seems like he moved more toward bigger government, government being the answer for all the problems we face, and we really need to look toward the private sector to solve all those problems.Newinski has run against Vento three elections in a row, and he says he wasn't going to run again, but Vento's retirement may change his mind. Political insiders have also speculated about St Paul Mayor Norm Coleman entering the race, but spokesman Mike Zipko says Coleman is definitely not interested.
Entenza: I think everyone's stunned by what's happened to Bruce, and it's going to take people a little time to take a deep breath and think about that, and you have a lot of fine people out there in the Legislature and local government. But it's going to be a DFL seat, and the DFL is going to have a wild, topsy-turvy time as we try to figure it out.The figuring-out process is already well underway. State Representative Betty McCollum of North St paul was the first to state her intentions, hours after Vento's announcement she said she would run. Many other St Paul legislators have already begun meeting privately with financial backers and political allies. St Paul State Senator Sandy Pappas says she's thinking about the race, and she expects quite a few of her colleagues from the Legislature to join her.
Pappas: I think for the House Democrats in particular, they're pretty frustrated being in the minority; but, of course, going to Congress, in the current Congress unless there's a change, and it could be, it could be very exciting in Congress, with a new president, and a group of new freshmen that really want to change things, it could be very exciting.With the late start to this campaign, Democrats and Republicans who want to run will have to act fast. Precinct caucuses are early next month, and candidates will have to throw together enough of a network to make a good showing at the fourth district convention, later in the year. But for many politicians, the effort is worth it. As one DFLer put it, this kind of opportunity - an open congressional seat in their home district - seems to come around only every 20 years or so.