The wide Democratic field of 2020 presidential candidates expanded further Sunday with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota throwing her hat in the ring at an outdoor event on a freezing afternoon in Minneapolis.
Klobuchar, 58, hopes her working-class, Midwestern background will help her seize the middle ground in a Democratic primary where many of the candidates who have announced so far have generally appealed to the party’s progressive wing.
As the snow came down and the temperatures hovered in the high teens, Klobuchar announced:
“I stand before you as the granddaughter of an iron ore miner, as the daughter of a teacher and a newspaperman, as the first woman elected to the United States Senate from the state of Minnesota, to announce my candidacy for president of the United States.”
Klobuchar delivered her remarks at Boom Island Park on the shores of the Mississippi River. According to The Weather Channel, it was 16 degrees Fahrenheit about the time she made her announcement, but it felt like 7 degrees with the wind chill.
I stand before you as the granddaughter of an iron ore miner, the daughter of a teacher and a newspaperman, the first woman elected to the United States Senate from the State of Minnesota, to announce my candidacy for President of the United States. pic.twitter.com/mNmvFQOJ5V
— Amy Klobuchar (@amyklobuchar) February 10, 2019
“I don’t come from money,” Klobuchar said. “But what I do have is this: I have grit. I have family. I have friends. I have neighbors. I have all of you who are willing to come out in the middle of the winter, all of you who took the time to watch us today from home, all of you who are willing to stand up and say people matter.”
In 2006, Klobuchar became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota. Last year, she won re-election to a third term with 60 percent of the vote in a state that President Donald Trump lost by only 1.5 percentage points.
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She is banking on that success carrying over into other Midwestern states to give her an edge in the Iowa caucuses. And, if she were to secure the nomination, she hopes she will get a boost in states like Wisconsin and Michigan, which were key to Trump’s upset over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“I think you want voices from places where Donald Trump did very well,” she told CNN in December. “My state, for instance, he almost won in 2016, and we came roaring back in 2018.”
Klobuchar, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, gained national attention during the contentious confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. In one exchange where Klobuchar asked Kavanaugh about his alcohol consumption, she spoke openly of growing up with an alcoholic father.
She voted against Kavanaugh, as well as Justice Neil Gorsuch. And she opposed most of Trump’s Cabinet nominees, including Jeff Sessions, Betsy DeVos, Steven Mnuchin, Rick Perry and Ben Carson. But, according to FiveThirtyEight, she voted with Trump 31.5 percent of the time, the highest among the five Democratic senators officially running in the primary so far.
Klobuchar is more moderate than some of her primary opponents on a couple key Democratic issues. Unlike Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Kristen Gillibrand of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, she opposes the elimination of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. And though she says the U.S. needs universal health care, she has not endorsed the Medicare for All plan supported by Harris and Sen. Bernie Sanders.
One early hurdle for the Minnesota Democrat is a recent BuzzFeed News report based on interviews with eight of her former staffers who accused her of running “a workplace controlled by fear, anger, and shame.” The article said the senator “regularly berated” her staff over minor mistakes.
A March 2018 report from Politico found she had the highest rate of staff turnover in the Senate from 2001 to 2016.
Other staffers have come forward to defend her publicly, including Asal Saya, her former director of scheduling who told BuzzFeed that Klobuchar was “one of the best bosses I’ve ever had.” Saya believed Klobuchar was being held to a different standard than a male lawmaker might be.
“Women shouldn’t be expected to nurture their employees or colleagues more than men, and they should be no less entitled to challenge them,” she said. “As a strong woman, it was inspiring to work for another strong woman that was direct, incredibly smart, and a leader.”
“Senator Klobuchar loves her staff – they are the reason she has gotten to where she is today,” her campaign told BuzzFeed in response to the report. “She is proud of them and the work they have done for Minnesota.”
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