U official eyes Senate run

by Ryan Dionne

University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg announced Monday that he is forming a Senate exploratory committee to further investigate the vacant seat in the 2006 U.S. Senate.

“Right now, I’m just exploring the race, and I have not made a final decision yet about being a candidate,” Rotenberg said.

Currently, Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., holds the seat, but Dayton announced last month that he will not run for re-election.

Dayton’s spokeswoman, Erin Utzinger, said his primary focus is representing Minnesotans in the U.S. Senate.

Rotenberg joins possible Democratic candidates Amy Klobuchar, Mike Ciresi, Patty Wetterling, former Minnesota Sen. Jerry Janezich and state Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia.

Rotenberg said he has served as general counsel for the University since 1992, helping to negotiate settlements, plan cases and advise the Board of Regents.

Performing his duties at the University while exploring the Senate race will not conflict, he said.

The University has a policy in place to support employees who decide to run for office, he said.

He said he plans to focus on educational opportunities for the 21st century and international terrorism.

Rotenberg said his cousin was killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Three months later, Rotenberg said, he witnessed a terrorist attack while sitting in a taxi in Jerusalem.

These incidents motivated him to help make Minnesotans more aware of terrorism, so he co-founded Minnesotans Against Terrorism, he said.

The nonprofit group speaks about terrorism, helps place terrorism-related books in libraries and sponsors speakers and events regarding the issue.

But it’s not just about buildings being attacked, Rotenberg said; it’s about an attack on liberal democracies and values.

“We need a fresh, new voice to speak up for proud Democrats,” Rotenberg said.

He said he hopes to take advantage of his strong connection to the University to help give him that voice.

“I’m very eager to hear from (students) and talk with them about this election,” Rotenberg said.

Austin Miller, University DFL president, said he thinks any Democratic candidate would receive many votes on campus. But, he said, he didn’t know Rotenberg was planning to run for U.S. Senate.

“He’d be really good for college students,” Miller said.

But, he said, U-DFL students really like Klobuchar right now.

Republican front-runner, Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., has been campaigning for the seat since February.

Kennedy has traveled throughout Minnesota and met with supporters on a 30-stop, five-day tour around the state, said Heidi Frederickson, Kennedy’s senate campaign press secretary.

He is focused on meeting with Minnesotans around the state and discussing their concerns, she said.

Rotenberg said, “I think it’s clear that the Republicans are beginning to gel around congressman Kennedy.”

Rotenberg said that he spoke with Kennedy on Sunday and the two wished each other well in the campaign.