Candidate pulls out of election

Dr. Claire Bender dropped out of the race for personal reasons, and her vacancy may be filled.

Christopher Aadland

A candidate dropped out of the University of Minnesota Board of Regents’ election on Tuesday, taking the candidate pool’s only connection to the Mayo Clinic with her.

Dr. Claire Bender, a retired Mayo Clinic physician, was hoping to secure the first district seat on the board. She said in an email statement that she withdrew due to personal reasons.

A former politician is hoping to fill her place in the election.

The Regent Candidate Advisory Council (RCAC), which is comprised of state leaders and a University student, recommended Bender and nine other candidates — two for each congressional district — earlier last month.

Randy Simonson, CEO of Grazix Animal Health Inc., is the remaining council-approved candidate running for the first district position.

After Bender announced her withdrawal, some council members expressed concern over the candidate pool’s lack of medical expertise.

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

“We are losing very strong medical expertise [on the board],” said Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, who’s a member of RCAC.

Third district candidate, Dr. Michael Belzer, who serves as Hennepin County Medical Center’s medical director and chief medical officer, is the only other recommended candidate with a background in medicine.

Regent-hopefuls can make their way into the election without the council’s formal recommendation if they are nominated by a legislator.

Former state Rep. Randy Demmer said he plans to seek approval from lawmakers to represent the first district’s spot on the board. Demmer currently works as director of business operations at Construction Ventures, Inc. and is a University alumni.

Demmer said he applied for a position on the board earlier in the election process, but the council denied him an interview.

If he wants to go through the formal selection process through the state Legislature’s higher education committees, two senators and three representatives must nominate him, Bonoff said.

The committees are set to make final candidate recommendations on Tuesday. The full Legislature will decide who will sit on the board later this spring.