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July 18, 2006
Minnesota Meltdown

The DFL has been sent reeling by the meltdown of party leader Matt Entenza, who withdrew from the Attorney General race after having spent the last week tapdancing about oppo research he'd run on a fellow DFL member and the current Attorney General, Mike Hatch. Both men had already received endorsement for the statewide offices for which they campaigned -- Hatch is the nominee to run against Governor Tim Pawlenty in his bid for re-election -- and the meltdown may kneecap the DFL in both races:

Buffeted by questions about his credibility and by controversy over his wife's multimillion-dollar stock options from a health-care company, DFL endorsee Matt Entenza dropped out of the race for state attorney general Tuesday.

The announcement, less than six hours before the deadline for filing for office, sent shock waves across the state's political landscape. And it threatened to create a multi-candidate internal DFL battle for a nomination that Entenza had locked up. ...

Entenza's troubles began a week ago with the revelation that he had hired a Chicago opposition-research firm that investigated fellow DFLer Mike Hatch, the current attorney general who is the party's endorsee for governor. Hatch, in turn, acknowledged that he had been encouraging candidates to run against Entenza. And Hatch voiced concern that Entenza's relationship with Quam might prevent Entenza from acting in a watchdog role over the health-care industry.

Entenza has been under fire over a number of issues, but the dirt-digging was the final straw. He may still have to explain himself to Hatch's office, as he apparently used his personal money to avoid having to declare the expense in election-finance disclosures. The GOP party chairman, Ron Carey, has already filed a complaint about the apparent violation of election law.

This could also backfire on Hatch. Carey has asked how Hatch managed to find out what Entenza was doing, a question that has not yet been answered. Hatch doesn't stand much of a chance of beating Pawlenty anyway, but the questions regarding the feud between himself and Entenza will likely dog his campaign for the next few weeks.

The DFL, meanwhile, had only hours to replace Entenza on the ticket. They rushed five people to file before the 5 pm deadline today, but now will have to contest a primary after Entenza had sailed to a party endorsement weeks ago. That can only help Jeff Johnson, the Republican who expected to square off against Entenza in November. The DFL only has this one statewide office -- all of the others have gone to the GOP -- and it looks like they will lose even that toehold on state politics.

Entenza got out just as another scandal started to heat up in St. Paul. Someone anonymously sent records, including deposits and cancelled checks, that show Entenza and his wife may have shuffled money around to get past donation limits and financial disclosures. In 2004, Entenza ran afoul of election law by donating $300,000 to a 527 that essentially laundered his money back into Minnesota DFL campaigns. Now it looks like Entenza and his wife sent $600,000 to South Dakota Democrats in order to launder it back into Minnesota.

The Democrats have tried to make a "culture of corruption" their rallying cry nationwide. Here in Minnesota, we have all of the corruption and dirty politics we can handle, thanks to the DFL.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 18, 2006 9:18 PM

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