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Kennedy has company in the 6th District
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Mark Kennedy won his congressional seat in 2000 by upsetting four-term Democrat David Minge. Finding himself in a new district after congressional boundaries were redrawn in 2002, Kennedy chased out another incumbent Democrat, Bill Luther, who ran unsuccessfully in another district. (MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)
Patty Wetterling, an advocate for missing and exploited children, is a DFL candidate in Minnesota 6th District. Wetterling's campaign says she filed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and will start raising money right away. Wetterling is one of several candidates who will be seeking the Democratic nomination to run in the 6th District. Whoever wins the nomination will face Republican incumbent Mark Kennedy.

St. Paul, Minn. — Patty Wetterling did not return calls seeking comment but her campaign issued a news release saying she intends to seek the DFL Party endorsement at their annual convention. A campaign official says she intends to make a more public announcement at a later date. Wetterling is a nationally known figure who works on behalf of missing and exploited children. Those efforts began after the 1989 abduction of her son, Jacob, who is still missing. Wetterling has been mulling her entrance in the 6th District race for several days. She said in an interview earlier this week that she has a lot to learn as a candidate.

"I know a lot about some things and there's things that I don't know a lot about. However, I look at people in Congress and they know about some things and I'm not sure they know a whole lot about keeping kids safe and creating a safer world. So I think I bring some things to the table that may not be there," she said.

Several high-ranking Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, asked her to run. As a candidate, they believe she would bring high name recognition and the ability to raise money.

Janet Robert, the DFL candidate who ran against Kennedy in 2002, spent $2.1 million in that race. Kennedy spent about $1.5 million.

Greg Hansen, the DFL party's 6th District congressional chair, says he's excited about Wetterling's candidacy.

"She brings high recognition, she brings a 15-year track history of very effective advocacy and I think she's really a role model for some positive change not only in the district but statewide and also nationally," he said.

But Hansen says DFLers in the district won't automatically give Wetterling the nomination. Stillwater banker Ted Thompson has also announced his candidacy. He has served as chief of staff Bill Luther, who used to represent portions of the 6th District. Thompson says he will continue to court party delegates. He says he's touting his experience and will represent core Democratic values.

"Money isn't always everything. Money doesn't always make victory in November. Name identification itself won't bring victory in November. My pitch is basically I'm strong on the issues. I know how to run a campaign. I'm comitted to this and I'm going into this with my eyes open and I'm ready for the challenge," he said.

Social justice advocate Tarryl Clark has also said she'd considering a possible run. She could not be reached for comment.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will have to face Republican incumbent Mark Kennedy, a well-financed and well-liked candidate in a district that leans Republican, but has many independent voters.

Kennedy is popular among party activists and is a strong supporter of President Bush. He has been mentioned as a possible opponent to DFL Senator Mark Dayton in 2006. Kennedy said during a stop in Anoka that he'll ask voters to look at his record this year.

"We'll be working hard to make sure that I'm asking for my job in a way that brings forth the strong record of accomplishment that I've developed in the last four years. And make sure they understand my vision for a more prosperous and more safe America," he said.

Several political analysts say Wetterling will have to prove to voters that she can be a candidate who is knowledgeable on a wide array of issues.

Bob Roberts, a political science professor at St. John's University in Collegeville, says Wetterling needs to figure out what issues are important to her and convey that to the voters.

"The most important thing is something she has to decide herself, and that is, what kind of message do I want to give people about why I want to go to Congress? What kind of Congress person would I be? And what do I want do I want to achieve and accomplish in Washington?" he said.

The DFL state convention will be in Duluth on May 21.

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