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Janezich Starts at the Top
by Amy Radil
June 5, 2000
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The DFL state convention has completed its work and the four remaining DFL candidates for U.S. Senate say they are ready for the primary race to begin.
Jerry Janezich

Age: 50
Born: March 16, 1950
Personal: Married to Pat. Three children.
Resides: Chisholm
Occupation:State Senator, small business owner.
Education:BS, St. Cloud State University
Web Site:
Campaign Finance Report

STATE SENATOR JERRY JANEZICH says there are three issues in the upcoming DFL primary: money, money and money, something he has much less of than his competitors, Mike Ciresi, Mark Dayton, and Rebecca Yanisch. Janezich, his voice fading the day after Saturday's long endorsement process, says he'll pack up the wooden soapbox he used to deliver his speeches at the convention and haul it around the state with him while he meets DFL voters.

Janezich says he expects his strongest issues to be his legislative backing of early childhood education and his criticism of free trade and the World Trade Organization. Although Janezich describes himself as a Wellstone-style liberal, some liberal delegates had questions about his record on environmental issues and gun control. But Janezich says he also expects the race to be about the character and approach of the four candidates, and that's something he's comfortable with.

"Personality will play a role, I'm counting on that too," he says. "I think that when I talk to people and when I touch people, they feel it, and I'm counting on that, I believe it's one of our strengths."

Janezich says his background as a bar owner will bring the right working man's touch not only to the primary race but to the U.S. Senate as well. But he could find himself in a competition to see whose humble roots run deepest.

Construction company executive Rebecca Yanisch, who attended the convention but quickly withdrew from the endorsement process, has begun running a television ad describing her own modest beginnings.
Yanisch (in ad): When I was 19 years old I had Sara. I didn't have the benefit of health insurance and every time she got an earache or sore throat I'd worry...
Narrator: Once a struggling single mother, she worked her way through college to become a business leader and an award-winning public official. Now Rebecca Yanisch is running for Senate...
The ad states Yanisch will focus on the issues of patients' rights, the price of prescription drugs, and health insurance for all children.

Janezich has no immediate plans to begin TV advertising. He says he expects to look to labor in large part for financial contributions. Observers say ideally the endorsement would bring financial support from the party as well. But DFL State Party Chair Mike Erlandson says a new fund created by the party specifically to help candidates in this year's primary is currently empty and it's up to Janezich's campaign to seek contributions for it.

Erlandson says blanket TV ads aren't always the best way to reach the narrow audience of primary voters, though, and the DFL can offer Janezich its substantial lists of voters' names and telephone numbers. He predicts, however, that an expensive race lies ahead.
"It could be a million-dollar primary."

- Mike Erlandson
DFL Chair
"If Rebecca Yanisch is, in fact, on television with a $250,000 TV buy this week, we can say that we're going to have a very, very expensive primary in the state of Minnesota and there's no question that the overall race from today through November 7 is probably going to result in $6 to $10 million. And so it could be a million-dollar primary."

That's a million dollars each. Ciresi told delegates if they endorsed him he'd run a so-called "coordinated campaign," chipping in to help other DFLers win their elections. But now that offer is moot. Ciresi says he's disappointed in the continual focus on money over issues. He says David Lillehuag's decision to send his delegate support to Janezich at the convention, avoiding a deadlock and sealing Janezich's endorsement, was divisive, since Lillehaug made clear in his speech he was sending his delegates away from what he regarded as Ciresi's big-money candidacy.

Ciresi says he has deep knowledge of the issues and looks forward to displaying it in primary debates. "I think I know a great deal about the economy," he says. "I know a lot about foreign policy, I need to know a lot more about foreign policy, but I believe I know a lot about that as contrasted with the candidates who are remaining in this primary."

Ciresi says his understanding of rural issues was weaker coming into the campaign but adds he's made a lot of progress. The fourth primary candidate, Mark Dayton, attended the convention and met informally with delegates but kept a low profile since he was not seeking the endorsement.