On Sunday, while Yalies enjoyed the cold but sunny weather in New Haven, Sen. Amy Klobuchar ’82 announced her entry into the race for the nation’s highest office amid a snowstorm that engulfed her and hundreds of her supporters.
Klobuchar is the senior senator from Minnesota, first elected to her legislative seat in 2006. A Democrat, she has since cruised to re-election twice despite the state’s slide to the right and is the first graduate of Yale College to announce a run this election cycle. She joins, among other peers in the Senate, fellow Yalie Sen. Cory Booker LAW ’97. On Sunday, in an announcement she teased through various social media channels, Klobuchar stood at Boom Island Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and presented herself as a unifying force with a Midwestern work ethos.
“On an island in the middle of the mighty Mississippi, in our nation’s heartland, at a time when we must heal the heart of our democracy and renew our commitment to the common good, I stand before you as the granddaughter of an iron-ore miner, as the daughter of a teacher and a newspaperman, as the first woman elected to the United States Senate from the state of Minnesota, to announce my candidacy for president of the United States,” Klobuchar told supporters who gathered against the backdrop of the storm at the park.
In her time at Yale, Klobuchar was a member of Jonathan Edwards College and a political science major involved in a number of campus organizations, including the Yale College Democrats. She returned to her native Midwest after her four years in New Haven to attend law school at the University of Chicago. After graduating from law school, she returned to Minnesota to work as a prosecutor.
“We are excited to see that Senator Klobuchar, a Yale Dems alum, has joined the race for President,” President of the Yale College Democrats Timothy White ’20 told the News in a statement. The Yale College Democrats is not currently endorsing any candidate.
In the days leading up to Klobuchar’s Sunday announcement, the lawmaker hinted at a potential run through various social media channels. She asked individuals to join her at Boom Island for an announcement, and ultimately, hundreds of people showed up in the low-teens weather.
Klobuchar was most recently re-elected to her Senate seat in 2018 with a predictably comfortable margin of victory, earning 60 percent of the vote. As Democrats grapple with Midwestern voters nationwide, Klobuchar cruised to victory in 42 counties that went for President Donald Trump over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 in the presidential election just two years prior. With her 2018 race largely viewed as uncompetitive, Klobuchar spent most of the midterm campaigning cycle crisscrossing the country for other Democratic candidates.
In an already wide-ranging Democratic field — four other Democratic senators have already entered the race, and at least three others have seriously floated their prospects — Klobuchar’s stake is twofold.
First, though she is a lifelong Democrat, the senator often crosses the aisle in her lawmaking efforts. In the 115th Congress, which ended Jan. 3, Klobuchar sponsored 92 bills and co-sponsored 590. Of her 92 sponsored bills, three were solo propositions and just 12 had only Democratic co-sponsors. In comparison, 17 were co-sponsored by a Republican member of the Senate, while the remainder were bipartisan — with co-sponsorships by both Republicans and Democrats.
In 2016, data from the congressional tracking website GovTrack showed that Klobuchar ranked first among the 100 senators in number of bills passed into law. She leaned into the doer image in her announcement, casting herself apart from the gridlock that has come to define politics in Washington.
That reputation will likely serve her well — Daniel Urke ’21 praised the candidate as “hardworking” and “good at getting things done that need doing.” Urke is a native of Hamel, Minnesota, and previously interned with Klobuchar’s Senate office.
In a 2016 interview with the News, Klobuchar said that the moments she feels she is doing important work are “those individual moments when you’re helping someone in your state.”
Klobuchar also sports a brand of politics known colloquially as “Midwestern nice.” Her Senate colleagues who have entered the race thus far all represent coastal states — California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — and Klobuchar, who was born and raised in Minnesota, made an explicit appeal to the nation’s heartland and its voters. Many of those voters went for Trump in 2016 — although Minnesota narrowly voted for Clinton, all five of its neighboring states, including critical early voting states, chose Trump.
Her centrism has caused some skepticism. Sidney Carlson White ’21, a native of Minneapolis, told the News that “she’s done a good job making a lot of the right votes” but that her commitment to centrism might not appeal to the party’s progressive voters.
“The media’s mostly correct narrative of her as a soft-spoken, ‘gets-things-done’ centrist is going to cause her to play that narrative up in the coming months,” Carlson White said.
In the week leading up to her announcement, Klobuchar faced scrutiny for how she treats her staff — she was allegedly rebuked by then-Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid in 2015, according to the HuffPost, and, in recent years, her office has had one of the Senate’s highest staff turnover rates.
Klobuchar has one daughter — whose medically complicated birth the senator often references and describes as her own springboard into politics — with her husband, who is a law professor.
Her daughter, Abigail Klobuchar Bessler ’17, is also a graduate of Yale College. As a member of Jonathan Edwards College, Bessler graduated summa cum laude with a political science degree in 2017. Bessler was affiliated with the News — she spent time covering state politics, and later served as editor in chief of the Yale Daily News Magazine. She is currently the legislative director for New York City Councilmember Keith Powers.
“I am so proud of my mom today,” Bessler told the News. “She swept the snow off her speech and talked about issues we all care about. As she said in her speech, she may not have a political machine, but she has grit. I can’t wait for the rest of the country to get to know her.”
Klobuchar was born in Plymouth, Minnesota, in 1960.
Angela Xiao | firstname.lastname@example.org