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Amy Klobuchar joins Minnesota's U.S. Senate Race
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Klobuchar, 44, is in her seventh year as Hennepin County attorney. She touted her record as a prosecutor. She pledged to bring "Minnesota common sense" to Washington. (MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik)
Democrat Amy Klobuchar officially entered the race for U.S. Senate on Sunday. So far only Klobuchar and Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy have formally launched campaigns for the seat DFLer Mark Dayton will leave at the end of next year.

Plymouth, Minn. — A few hundred supporters cheered on Amy Klobuchar as she stood in the driveway of the Plymouth home she grew up in and made it official; -- she's running for Senate.

"In a place where so many of my own journeys have begun, and with a commitment to the everyday heroes from across this state of Minnesota, I announce my candidacy for the United States Senate," she said.

Klobuchar, 44, is in her seventh year as Hennepin County attorney. She touted her record as a prosecutor. She pledged to bring "Minnesota common sense" to Washington.

Klobuchar denounced Republican proposals to allow some Americans to invest a portion of their Social Security withholding in the stock market. She called for fair trade agreements for farmers, for protecting the environnment and for a strong military and safe communities. She said the Bush tax cuts unfairly favor wealthy Americans and she spoke out against the growing federal budget deficit, vowing to promote a "pay-as-you-go" approach if she makes it to the Senate.

"You want to do some spending; that's fine, but you better show that you have the money to pay for it," she said. "You want to give some more tax cuts. OK, but you better show that you have the money to pay for it."

Klobuchar's announcement came as no surprise. Supporters say almost immediately following DFL Senator Mark Dayton's announcement in February he would not seek re-election, Klobuchar began working the phones and putting together a campaign. That aggressive approach appears to have paid off. Klobuchar raised nearly $600,000 in less than two months. The only other announced candidate for Dayton's seat, 6th District Republican Congressman Mark Kennedy, raised $550,000 during the first quarter of the year.

Klobuchar is pledging to honor the endorsement process and says she'll bow out if she's unable to win the support of party activists.

Longtime Klobuchar friend David Lillehaug, who unsuccessfully sought the DFL endorsement for Senate in 2000, says he thinks Klobuchar will have a leg-up on any likely DFL competition.

"The fact that she raised almost $600,000 I think is a reflection that she's got a tremendous structure in place. There are people that are very excited and enthusiastic about her. They like what she's been doing as Hennepin County attorney. And so I do think it's fair to say that she's the front-runner," Lillehaug said.

DFLers Patty Wetterling and Mike Ciresi say they're considering getting into the race.

Former Republican Sen. Rod Grams says he plans on getting into the 2006 Senate race as well. Former Independence Party Chairman Jack Uldrich says he's considering running.

Republican Party Chairman Ron Eibensteiner predicts regardless of who the Democrats choose, the GOP's message will prevail.

"We welcome her into the race as well as anybody else who had interest and we feel that come election day our message of more limited government and more trust in the private sector versus big government and a lot of taxes, I think our message will win out," he said.

St. Olaf College political science professor Dan Hofrenning says it's notable that a woman is running for Senate in Minnesota; the last time that happened was about a decade ago when DFLer Ann Wynia came close to winning a race with then Congressman Rod Grams. Twenty years ago DFLer Joan Growe lost to Rudy Boschwitz by more than 15 points.

Hofrenning says what Klobuchar needs to do is bolster her standing outside of the Twin Cities metro-area where, he says, the Hennepin County attorney is not as well known.

"She's got to hop in that car of hers and drive around the state. She just has to do everything she can to get her name, her message out. I think we'll see a lot of her in every corner of the state," he said.

Klobuchar joked that the journey she's embarking on to become Minnesota's next U.S. senator will be easier than a more than 1,000 mile bike ride she once launched from the same driveway. That might be an underestimation. Minnesota's 2006 Senate race is expected to be one of the nation's most hard fought battles in the upcomming mid-term elections and it's expected the fight will break the $25 million spending record set in the 2002 Senate race.