Amy Klobuchar’s voice rose as she delivered an impassioned plea — especially to high school girls — to get involved in science, technology, engineering and math.
“We have to invent things again,” she declared. “We have to make things again.”
As an example of Minnesota’s needs, Agco in Jackson cannot find enough welders to build Massey Ferguson and Challenger farm tractors, she told a group gathered to celebrate National Manufacturers’ Day at Wyoming Machine in Stacy, just north of the Twin Cities.
After her speech, Minnesota’s senior U.S. senator chatted with high school girls, and a few boys, about prospects in what normally are not jobs girls investigate.
The 52-year-old Democrat sounded all the world like a saleswoman trying to recruit job candidates.
Being a saleswoman may not be what she expected when elected senator six years ago, after two terms as Hennepin County attorney, but she said that is part of the job.
“You have an obligation as a senator to point out where America has jobs,” she said.
“We’re trying to work with high schools all around the state,” Klobuchar said, with one goal of getting students interested in attending two-year colleges.
“Not every senator can say this,” Klobuchar said in an interview. “My dad went to a two-year college, Vermilion, and my sister went to a two-year college in Iowa.”
Both went on to four-year schools, and her father became a well-known Minnesota sports columnist.
Klobuchar went into her re-election race with polls showing her the state’s most popular politician and with plenty of money in the bank.
In campaign stops, she says little about Republican challenger Kurt Bills. Instead, she discusses things she has done in her tenure to help Minnesotans.
Bills criticizes her for not being a leader, but she counters by saying she works with senators from both parties and gets things done.
What some might consider minor issues — like outlawing a dangerous type of swimming pool drain — affect many Americans, she said.
For instance, a family adopted eight Filipino children from one family, but federal law did not allow adoption of a 16-year-old brother.
“We realized that was happening all over the place,” she said.
She helped change the law.
Bills complains that Klobuchar talks about working with Republicans for bipartisan solutions, but 94 percent of the time she votes with Democrats.
Longtime Democratic activist Wy Spano, director of the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Master of Advocacy and Political Leadership program, said most congressional votes are lopsided by party, so such a high percentage is common.
“My mission since I have gotten there is to find common ground,” Klobuchar said.
While Spano said “that’s just who she is,” it helps her in politics. Spano said no big-name Republican wanted to take her on this year.
Klobuchar is in demand as a speaker around the country and other Democrats ask her to campaign for them.
At a recent event for Senate hopeful U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin in Hudson, Wis., Klobuchar refused to say how many states she has visited during the campaign, but said she helps her friends.
Her travelling only stokes the flames of what some see as a possible future presidential campaign. Major political publications have tossed around her name, including calling her one of the women most likely to run for president.
Klobuchar will not directly talk about any presidential dreams, including in 2016, and left the door open a bit when asked if she would pledge to serve out her six-year Senate term if re-elected: “Yeah, that is what I am planning on doing.”
She said Minnesota has had a lot of senators in recent years and it is time for one to stay in office for a while.
Personal: Husband, John Bessler. Daughter, Abigail. She is daughter of well-known Minnesota sports columnist Jim Klobuchar. Raised in Wayzata. Graduated from Yale University and University of Chicago Law School.
Occupation: Lawyer in private practice 14 years.
Political experience: Two terms as Hennepin County attorney. In first U.S. Senate term.