Minn. Hatch Wins Gubernatorial Nod on Third Attempt

June 12, 2006

The third time proved to be the charm for Mike Hatch, who won the DFL Party’s endorsement for governor this past weekend after two earlier tries at securing party backing in bids for Minnesota’s top office.

Hatch, a two-term attorney general, outlasted fellow DFLers Steve Kelley and Becky Lourey and claimed the endorsement after seven ballots, when Kelley conceded and asked delegates to endorse Hatch.

“Let’s go out in November and let’s defeat Tim Pawlenty,” Kelley said. “Let’s take the House back and let’s win as Democrats.”

The delegates then endorsed Hatch by acclamation.

“I want to thank you for letting me come home,” Hatch told delegates.

Before he gets a crack at Pawlenty, the GOP incumbent, Hatch faces a challenge from Lourey in the September primary. Lourey dropped out after the fourth ballot. Kelley ended his campaign, and Hatch starts out as the clear favorite for the DFL nomination.

Hatch, 57, has a reputation as a hard charger whose dream of becoming governor spans two decades. A DFL state chairman in the early 1980s, he became a party pariah in 1990 for taking on incumbent Gov. Rudy Perpich. Hatch had been Perpich’s commerce commissioner.

He tried again in 1994, losing in a Democratic primary. Hatch challenged a DFL endorsee a third time in 1998, when he went on to win the first of two terms as attorney general.

In that office, Hatch applied pressure to insurance companies, lenders and, notably, big health companies. He issued scathing audits of the state’s major HMOs, forcing them to cut executive perks.

His bullishness earned him enemies in the business world, but fans among consumer watchdog groups. He often says he is most proud of his endorsement from ACORN, an organization that looks out for the interests of poor people.

Hatch, nearly always dressed in suit and tie, has a serious demeanor to match. He has sharply criticized Pawlenty for mismanaging state affairs, from his administration’s handling of sex offenders to his role in an unprecedented government shutdown last summer.

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