GOP businessman to challenge Minnesota’s Franken

Published 10:27 am Thursday, May 30, 2013

ST. PAUL — Republican Mike McFadden, a political newcomer with a deep business background already being dissected by foes, declared his candidacy Wednesday for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Minnesota Democrat Al Franken.

McFadden’s campaign launch came in a three-minute Web video that describes his Minnesota roots and his concern “about the direction this country is headed.” The timing was far from ideal, with much of the state’s political attention focused on the retirement announcement of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.

McFadden had filed formal paperwork to form a campaign fundraising committee, so he went ahead with his planned kickoff. He tried to make the most of it, describing the confluence of events to reporters as “the end of one political career but hopefully the beginning of another political career.”

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Franken intends to seek another six-year term after winning the last one by a whisker following a recount and court fight.

McFadden is Franken’s first announced GOP opponent with several well-known Republicans taking themselves out of the running. McFadden said coming from outside politics is an asset and that he subscribes to a “learn, earn and then serve” model.

McFadden, 48, runs a financial management firm with expertise in mergers and acquisitions. He plans to take a leave of absence from Lazard Middle Market in Minneapolis during his campaign. But Democrats and their allied groups have said for weeks that they intend to focus on mergers and acquisitions on his watch that led to job losses.

“What I do is very different than Mitt Romney,” McFadden told reporters, distinguishing his business background from that of the 2012 GOP presidential nominee whose venture capital deals fed sharp critiques from Democrats.

McFadden explained his company’s role as similar to a real estate agent that advises parties already partnering in a deal. “At times, we are involved in a distress situation,” he said. “Think of a house that’s in foreclosure. When it’s a business that is in trouble, we are hired to advise them. We go in and try to fix them.”

In his video, McFadden’s daughter, Molly, opens with her starting to introduce “my dad, not the business guy, the real guy.” He stresses his role on the board of an inner city Jesuit high school in Minneapolis. McFadden and wife, Mary Kate, have six children and live in the St. Paul suburb of Sunfish Lake.

McFadden said he wants the campaign to focus on ways the federal government can help improve education and reduce its long-term debt, so he deflected questions about his views on social issues such as gay marriage. He held Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, a GOP businessman who won a Senate seat in 2010, up as a model and also spoke highly of Tennessee’s Bob Corker and Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn.

Franken’s campaign manager, Matt Burgess, issued a brief statement that doesn’t mention the senator’s new rival.

“The 2014 election is a long way away, and right now, Senator Franken is continuing to focus on his job working for the people of Minnesota,” Burgess said. “He has a strong record of accomplishment and looks forward to making his case for re-election to voters in the months to come.”

Franken’s campaign account had $2 million at the ready as of mid-April.

McFadden said he plans to put personal money into his campaign but would rely on donations to pay for the bulk of the multimillion-dollar venture.

Minnesota’s seat is part of the larger tussle for Senate control. To take the Senate majority away from Democrats, Republicans need to gain six seats. Twenty-one seats held by Democrats are at stake while Republicans are defending 13 of theirs.