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Auditor candidate Entenza visits Bemidji; Primary race is only high-profile statewide DFL contest

BEMIDJI -- Former longtime DFL state representative Matt Entenza flew into Bemidji on Tuesday while campaigning in one of Minnesota's most-watched primary races.

Entenza is challenging incumbent State Auditor Rebecca Otto in the only major DFL primary contest.

On Tuesday, he talked about his new push to prevent pension privatization, and Otto's claim he's just running for auditor to cement a future attempt at the governor's chair.

Entenza said his campaign's last big push ahead of the Aug. 12 primary vote would center on public employee pensions. He claimed groups such as the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the League of Minnesota Cities are pushing for the state to privatize pensions by changing them from defined benefit pensions to defined contribution pensions, like 401Ks.

"With a defined contribution pension, you have no idea what you're going to get on the back end (at retirement)," he said. "Your only hope is that you've saved so much that if the market roller coaster...hurts you, you might be able to survive it."

Entenza's position on pensions exemplifies his approach toward the duties of state auditor, he said.

"We think one of the big differences between myself and the incumbent auditor... her view of the office is...focus on balancing the books and not to look at what she calls 'policy issues,'" he said. "But I think that it's essential that in Minnesota -- given the fact that we've got $80 billion in pension asserts that we manage -- that not only do we manage them carefully, but that we avoid the pitfalls of privatization."

There are public sector employees in the base that Entenza is trying to energize with his trip to Bemidji, he said.

"One of the things we think is going to happen with the Aug. 12 primary is that there's going to be very low turnout," he said. "We're working closely for example to try and get volunteer firefighters, people like that, to turn out and vote."

Entenza was DFL minority leader in Minnesota's House of Representatives from 2003 to 2006 and also served as Gov. Mark Dayton's advisor on economic issues. He ran unsuccessfully in the 2010 DFL primary for governor, as well as a failed bid for state attorney general before that. Otto has claimed Entenza aims to use the position of state auditor as a jumping-off point for another run at the governor's office, but Entenza dismissed that claim Tuesday.

"I think it's interesting that she would want to criticize me for wanting to work hard and do a good job," he said. "To me, it's a criticism that says that the office (of auditor) should continue to be a quiet office and I think Democrats want a more active, aggressive auditor."

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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