Regent candidate drops out of election

Officials said she withdrew due to “personal reasons.”

by Christopher Aadland

Claire Bender, a retired Mayo Clinic physician, pulled out of the election for a seat on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents, according to multiple officials.

She dropped out earlier this week due to personal reasons, said Aredelle Brede, chair of the Regent Candidate Advisory Council and mayor of Rochester, Minn.

Candidates are vying for five open seats on the board, each seat representing a Minnesota district. With Bender’s withdrawal, the first district is left with only one recommended candidate, Randy Simonson, Grazix Animal Health CEO, of Worthington, Minn. 

The Regent Candidate Advisory Council, which is a group of state leaders and a University student, recommended the top 10 candidates, two for each open seat, earlier this month. The House and Senate higher education committees will make recommendations on who they view as best fit for the positions this week, and the full Legislature will decide who receives the spots this spring.

But Regent-hopefuls can make their way into the election without a recommendation from the council. They just need legislators’ approval.

Former state Rep. Randy Demmer, who is a business manager and University alumni, said he plans to seek approval from lawmakers to represent the first district’s spot on the board.

He applied to be a top 10 candidate, but the council denied him an interview, Brede said.

Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, said the full Legislature could recommend Demmer, but for him to receive time in front of the House and Senate committees, which comes before and is critical due to the bodies’ power with making recommendations, two senators and three representatives must nominate him.

Without Bender, it’s more likely the board will be left without someone with a medical background, Brede said.

Regents Patricia Simmons, who is a Mayo Clinic physician and John Frobenius, a retired hospital administrator, aren’t seeking another term.

Dr. Michael Belzer, Hennepin County Medical Center’s medical director and chief medical officer, is running against Paula Prahl for the third district seat.