The first images of Amy Klobuchar’s campaign are hard to relate to during a Miami summer, but the frosty snowstorm, her cold-stiffened lips, rosy cheeks and a cake of snow thickening on her yellow coat provided exactly the kind of backdrop the Minnesota senator was happy to have.
“What makes me unique is I did this announcement speech in the middle of a blizzard, and I think we need people with grit — I have that grit,” Klobuchar told CNN after her February announcement on the banks of the frozen Mississippi River in Minneapolis, adding later: “I am tough enough to take on Donald Trump.”
The comment was enough to provoke the president.
“Amy Klobuchar announced that she is running for President, talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures,’’ he wrote in a tweet. “Bad timing. By the end of her speech she looked like a Snowman(woman)!”
Trump wasn’t Klobuchar’s only intended audience; so were the voters of Iowa, the neighboring state whose voters cast the first primary votes of the 2020 Democratic primary. Klobuchar is calculating that her Midwestern roots, her tough veneer and moderate brand of politics will give her the edge in the crucial state.
Her platform includes a $1 trillion plan to support and expand infrastructure and a $100 billion plan to fight substance abuse and to improve mental health treatment. She supports the Green New Deal, the plan to reduce carbon emissions, and has called for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
But unlike many of her Democratic rivals, Klobuchar has declined to endorse free four-year college and single-payer healthcare. She has also voted with Trump more than any of her other Senate Democratic colleagues, 29% of the time.
Klobuchar, 59, grew up in Plymouth, a Minneapolis suburb, and is the daughter of a schoolteacher and a longtime columnist for The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jim Klobuchar.
She graduated from Yale University and the University of Chicago Law School. In college, Klobuchar served as an intern to former Vice President Walter Mondale, an early mentor, and after law school returned to Minnesota to work for a prominent Minnesota law firm and married fellow lawyer John Bessler.
In 1995, it was the birth of their daughter, Abigail, that led Klobuchar into political activism. Abigail was born with a condition that made it impossible for her to swallow and required extended hospital stays.
Klobuchar’s insurance company required her to leave the hospital while her daughter stayed behind, so she started working for legislation that would guarantee new mothers a 48-hour hospital stay. President Bill Clinton signed a similar measure into federal law in 1996.
Klobuchar was elected prosecutor in Hennepin County, the state’s most populous county, in 1998, and in one of the most high-profile cases of her prosecutorial career, Klobuchar’s office prosecuted Kirby Puckett, a retired Minnesota Twins player who was accused of dragging a woman into a restroom and groping her. The jury acquitted Puckett on multiple charges.
In 2006, Klobuchar became Minnesota’s first elected female senator. She has earned the reputation of being a workhorse in Congress, getting bipartisan co-sponsors on more bills than any other Democratic member.
Her legislation has included efforts to lower the cost of prescription drugs, encourage female entrepreneurship, confront sexual harassment and human trafficking and protect online privacy. She cosponsored the Honest Ads Act, which would strengthen disclosure of online political ads.
She has also worked to cultivate a reputation as someone who can work across the aisle, having co-sponsored three bills with Republican senators to fight the opioid crisis. All have become law.
Klobuchar rose to national prominence earlier this year during a tense exchange in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. When the senator pressed the nominee on whether he had blacked out drinking, he shot back: “Have you?”
Klobuchar calmly responded she had not, adding: “When you have a parent that is an alcoholic, you are pretty careful about drinking.”
The episode, and her frequent presence as a centrist voice on network television, has helped her raise about $9.4 million as of June 3, but early polls show Kobuchar with support of only about 1 percent among Democratic primary voters.
Klobuchar’s firm but “Minnesota nice” reputation has, however, faced some tarnish. According to a Politico analysis of Legistorm data from 2001 to 2016, Klobuchar had the highest staff turnover rate in the Senate, 36%, and HuffPost relied on anonymous staffers to report that she had a reputation of being demeaning.
Klobuchar has since acknowledged that she can be harsh to her staff at times.
“I know I can be tough,’’ she told The Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I know I can push people too hard, and I also know I can do better — and I will.”
About Amy Klobuchar
▪ Current or most recent position: U.S. senator from Minnesota since 2007.
▪ Other elected offices: Hennepin County attorney, 1999-2006.
▪ Occupation: Attorney.
▪ Education: Yale University, 1982, B.A.; University of Chicago, 1985, J.D.
▪ Age: 59
▪ Residence: Minneapolis
▪ Family: Husband John Bessler, daughter Abigail
▪ Campaign website: https://amyklobuchar.com/
▪ Small donors: $2.5 million or 25%
▪ Big donors: Dorsey & Whitney law firm, $65,435; Delta Air Lines, $60,314; Walt Disney Co., $59,581; University of Minnesota, $55,393; Cargill Inc., $53,875.
▪ Fun fact: Her undergraduate senior thesis was “Uncovering the Dome,” a history of the 10 years of politics surrounding the building of the now-dismantled Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. It became a book that is still drawing modest royalties.
▪ On the issues: General issues: https://amyklobuchar.com/issues/; Plan to Combat Addiction and Prioritize Mental Health: https://medium.com/@AmyforAmerica/amys-plan-to-combat-addiction-and-prioritize-mental-health-b0207531c9ab; Plan to Build America’s Infrastructure: https://medium.com/@AmyforAmerica/amys-plan-to-build-america-s-infrastructure-671b08a10751
Sources of biographical information: