Senator Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, has joined the crowded field of Democratic candidates for 2020 that includes a historic number of women seeking the presidency.
The three-term senator, who is often characterized as ‘Minnesota nice’ amid the rough-and-tumble of politics, is looking to be a foil to Donald Trump’s brash personality and often vitriolic rhetoric.
She stood outdoors in thick falling snow in Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon to declare: “In our nation’s heartland at a time when we must heal the heart of our democracy … I stand before you … as the first woman elected to the US Senate from Minnesota to announce my candidacy for president of the United States.”
Klobuchar on Sunday joined a jam-packed field that includes several of her Senate colleagues, including Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York, Kamala Harris, of California, and Cory Booker, of New Jersey, as well as the former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard.
Klobuchar, 59, is the sixth prominent woman to wade into the primary contest, which features a record number of women vying for a major-party nomination. She launched her candidacy at an outdoor event in Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon.
But amid an upbeat launch for the White House, there is a cloud over Klobuchar this weekend in the form of several reports late last week where ex-staffers claim the Minnesota Democrat has a reputation for running a workplace in Washington “controlled by fear, anger, and shame”, according to Buzzfeed.
A report in the Huffington Post said that at least three people withdrew from consideration to lead her forthcoming campaign — in part because of Klobuchar’s history of mistreating her staff and “bursts of cruelty”, despite being “beloved” in her home state as smart, funny and personable.
A spokesperson for Klobuchar’s campaign put out a statement that began: “Senator Klobuchar loves her staff” and defending her record as an employer.
Unlike some of her fellow senators, Klobuchar has kept a low profile in Washington. She is neither the progressive firebrand that is Warren nor has the vast social media following that transformed Booker into a star.
Klobuchar is instead known a soft-spoken policymaker who has quietly built a network of supporters, in contrast with some of the Democratic contenders who have embraced confrontation with Trump head-on.
The Democratic party has been somewhat torn over whether candidates should try and match Trump’s bullying tactics or fall back upon Michelle Obama’s 2016 advice: “When they go low, we go high.”
Klobuchar suggested she would forge a middle ground, stating: “I don’t agree with, ‘When they go low, we go low,’ but I do agree that when they go low, we have to respond.”
Elected to the Senate in 2006, Klobuchar had previously been the chief prosecutor of Minnesota’s most populous county. Democrats believe she would be uniquely positioned to appeal to independents and moderate Republicans, although it remains unclear if a centrist figure could survive a primary that will be determined by an animated progressive base.
Klobuchar, in a departure from some of the other senators running for the Democratic party’s nomination, has not endorsed Medicare-for-All, the single-payer healthcare proposal championed by Bernie Sanders. She supports legislation around college affordability, but has not called for debt-free college tuition.
Questions have also lingered over whether Klobuchar’s temperament as mild-mannered and restrained hold true behind closed doors. An online portal tracking Capitol Hill offices, dubbed as ‘Worst Bosses?’, found the senator had the highest annual staff turnover in the Senate.
But the full statement from Klobuchar’s office in response to reports of her being sharply critical of staff, especially in early hours emails where staff reported they were dressed down, with colleagues included on the emails, disputed the characterization.
“Senator Klobuchar loves her staff – they are the reason she has gotten to where she is today. She has many staff who have been with her for years – including her Chief of Staff and her State Director, who have worked for her for 5 and 7 years respectively, as well as her political advisor Justin Buoen, who has worked for her for 14 years — and many who have gone on to do amazing things, from working in the Obama Administration (over 20 of them) to running for office to even serving as the Agriculture Commissioner for Minnesota,” a campaign spokesperson said in the statement. “She is proud of them and the work they have done for Minnesota.”
On a freezing day in Minnesota on Sunday, Klobuchar launched her campaign to an enthusiastic and warmly dressed crowd of supporters sipping on the hot cocoa and munching the cookies provided.