Entenza springs primary challenge on Otto: Is this about mining?

Minnesota politicsAs the final minutes ticked away on Minnesota’s election filing period, former State Representative and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Matt Entenza strolled to the counter and became a candidate for State Auditor. He’ll challenge incumbent and fellow DFLer Rebecca Otto, who was already girding for a tough race in November amid pockets of resistance in the DFL’s Iron Range stronghold.

If you might recall, an unregistered entity (perhaps a group, perhaps a person) threw together a “Dump Otto” campaign last year after she was the sole vote on the state executive committee against a land transfer to benefit the PolyMet nonferrous mining project near Hoyt Lakes. Read more: Rebecca Otto responds to Iron Range critics

Entenza’s initial announcement doesn’t mention mining or the Iron Range. He didn’t compete especially well on the Iron Range in the 2010 governor’s race, nor is mining on the list of issues he’s known for. His press release dredges up old votes of Otto’s from when she was a swing district state rep almost 10 years ago, and says she should have done more to protect pensions as state auditor.

Frankly, Entenza’s announcement looks a Mad Libs justification for a guy who really wanted to run for something and needed to cook up a reason.

So, while it would appear that Otto’s only real electoral vulnerability in a DFL primary would be over mining on the Iron Range, it’s not clear that Entenza is running solely for that reason. It could merely be that the issue is part of a calculation on Entenza’s part that Otto is the most vulnerable of the DFL constitutional officers.

That being said, it’s not clear that Otto actually is vulnerable in a statewide primary. The Range is good for maybe 40,000 DFL primary votes, but there are ten times that many found elsewhere, usually in places where no one cares about mining, or actively support Otto’s position of caution. She’s endorsed, and Ken Martin and the DFL seem spitting mad over Entenza’s last minute surprise. I’d expect them to spend some time and money on a primary GOTV campaign on Otto’s behalf.

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