MINNEAPOLIS — Julianne Ortman, a veteran state senator from the Twin Cities suburbs, on Saturday joined the growing group of Republicans who want to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Al Franken next year.
Ortman launched her campaign at a downtown park in Waconia, a town west of Minneapolis in the Carver County state Senate district that Ortman has represented for the last decade. In a short speech, Ortman criticized Washington as dysfunctional, and stressed her own middle class background and reputation at Minnesota's Capitol for tenacious advocacy of Republican principles.
"This is our time as voters in Minnesota to say that we expect more from Washington and our U.S. Senate," Ortman said. "We need more Minnesota in Washington, and less Washington in Minnesota."
Franken, elected to the Senate by a razor-thin margin in 2008, is running for a second term in 2014. Two other Republicans are also running to be party's candidate against him: Mike McFadden, a businessman from the St. Paul suburb of Sunfish Lake; and Jim Abeler, a state representative from Anoka.
In her speech, Ortman had many harsh words for Franken but also offered veiled criticism of McFadden, a wealthy businessman with no previous political experience.
"We don't need any more disinterested millionaires in the U.S. Senate," Ortman said. In a seeming reference to Franken's background as a "Saturday Night Live" writer and performer, she said: "We don't need more celebrity politicians who sit back and watch and provide comedic commentary. We need a strong, independent-minded woman."
Ortman, 50, lives in Chanhassen. She and husband Ray Ortman have four children. Ortman was elected to the state Senate in 2002. She has served as deputy leader of the Senate GOP and chaired the powerful Taxes Committee in 2011-12. She has a reputation as an aggressive debater and questioner, and has been a tough critic of Gov. Mark Dayton and of Democratic policies on a wide range of issues, from tax and spending priorities to gun control.