The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Ortman ’86 could challenge Franken: Mac grad may secure GOP nomination in August

Macalester’s legacy could reach the U.S. Senate this November. Minnesota State Senator Julianne Ortman ’86 is taking on Washington, bringing her Macalester values to the national level.

These values may surprise Macalester students. Ortman is a Republican: a critic of government spending, an opponent of Obamacare and an advocate for individual privacy rights.

If Ortman is successful in the August primary she will run against Senator Al Franken (DFL) in November. The primary will be tough to win; her strongest opponent is Mike McFadden, an investment banker with little political experience but large financial backing.

Ortman believes her 12 years of legislative experience make her the most viable candidate.

“We need stronger advocacy for Minnesota’s best interest in Washington,” Ortman said. “Being a State Senator helped me understand what Minnesota’s best interest is, and I don’t see that being currently represented in Washington.”

MacGOP member Jeff Garcia ’14 hopes that Macalester students consider Ortman if she runs against Franken in November.

“I know that Al Franken is very popular here, whether it’s his status as a [former] comedian or his progressive politics,” Garcia said. “People should take a serious look at what Al Franken has supported and think about supporting Ortman.”

Joe Schultz ’06—an active Republican activist who currently sits on an exploratory committee for the candidate who will run against U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (DFL)—completely supports Ortman’s Senate bid but doubts that she will survive the primary.

“She is the strongest of the candidates running. Her positions and her voting record are very strong,” Schultz said. “But she has a hopeless campaign at this point.”

According to Schultz, reasons for that are monetary. Using his business connections, McFadden’s campaign has raised almost $1.5 million, more than six times what Ortman has.

“He’s been in business for a long time. He’s on the D.C. Rolodex,” Schultz said. “The money difference is so strong now that I don’t see anyone else competing.”

Garcia believes that Ortman has the best chance to beat Franken, so he hopes she can pull through the primary.

“She would have a big uphill battle against Franken, but I think she’ll do better than McFadden, who has a lot of money but not a lot of interesting policy,” Garcia said.

Ortman is very critical of Franken’s job performance thus far, and she questions his commitment to Minnesotans.

“[Franken is] more aligned with an agenda in Washington than he is to Minnesota,” Ortman said.

Ortman said that Franken’s position on NSA surveillance proves this. Franken is the chairman of the Senate’s privacy subcommittee, but Ortman said that he has done nothing to restore personal privacy.

“He hasn’t voted for [Minnesota’s] best interests,” Ortman said. “The privacy issue is a great example of citizen interests being very different than those in Washington.”

Ortman hopes to facilitate a conversation about surveillance when she gets to Congress, focusing on citizen perspectives on the issue.

“I don’t believe that what [the NSA] is doing is constitutional,” Ortman said. “We should be having a conversation about what is legal and rational.”

Ortman excels at facilitating conversation, which she attributes this to her Macalester education.

“It starts with a core of respect for other’s views, which is one of Macalester’s strengths,” Ortman said. “[Macalester] is liberal in that way.”

Schultz sees Macalester’s influence in Ortman’s ability to debate on the Senate floor.

“She’s a very good debater—there’s a reason [for that],” said Schultz. “She had a lot of practice. She’s good at talking to a lot of different people.”

Garcia agrees, but notes that being a Republican at Mac can be frustrating. He suspects that Macalester is more open to conservatives than it was when Ortman attended, but Macalester students are still rarely receptive to his opinions.

“[It’s like people say,] it’s okay that you’re a Republican and we can hang out, but don’t tell me about your political beliefs,” Garcia said.

According to Schultz, this hyper-liberal political culture is causing Macalester to be ignored by half of Minnesota’s political candidates, and he expects this senatorial race to be no different.

“I don’t expect Macalester students to support Ortman,” Schultz said. “Macalester has positioned itself so far on the left that they’re basically ignored by Republicans.”

However, Ortman is optimistic about Macalester. She hopes that students will ensure that their congressional representatives are representing their interests—not Washington’s.

“I’d like to think that Mac students and alumni should step in and make sure the government works for us again,” said Ortman. “Folks in your age group have more at stake than anyone else. You will have to live with the results of this election.”

Even if they advocate for Franken, Schultz has no doubt that Macalester students will be active participants in the election.

“When I was at Mac a quarter of the school…was engaged in the Democratic Party. You don’t see that [level of participation] anywhere else,” Schultz said.

Ortman argues that this environment of political adversity made her a great senate candidate.

“Macalester led to an important art of listening which leads to finding common ground and building conversation,” Ortman said. “I think that’s a skill that’s much needed in government.”

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