FAIRMONT - The race to replace Al Franken is under way.
Among those with high hopes of doing so is Republican state Sen. Julianne Ortman of Chanhassen. She visited Fairmont on Saturday as part of an ongoing campaign across the state.
Ortman is considered a top contender in the race, along with Mike McFadden, a businessman from St. Paul.
But the field is crowded, and includes state Rep. Jim Abeler of Anoka, St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg, Stillwater-area bison farmer Monti Moreno and Phillip Parrish, a former teacher and principal from Medford.
Ortman describes her strategy as new: She is traveling all over Minnesota, meeting with every Republican activist she can, as well as anyone else who is interested. Her message is twofold: Reconnect citizens with their government, and oust Democrat Franken.
"What's missing is trust [between the people and Washington]," she says. "I distrust what's happening in Washington."
Ortman notes that polls show only 9 percent of Americans approve of what's happening in Congress. She says 2014 represents an opportunity for change, including removing Franken, whom she says has not served Minnesota very well.
"He was the 60th and deciding vote for Obamacare," she says.
The Affordable Care Act - Obamacare - has created chaos and frightened employers, hurt the economy and stifled opportunities for young people, she argues.
She also indicts Franken for supporting gun control, something that would hurt the many outdoors enthusiasts in Minnesota. And she says he has done nothing as chairman of the Senate's Privacy subcommittee to help rein in the federal government's snooping into people's cell phone conversations.
The Franken campaign did not return an email request from the Sentinel for a response over the weekend.
In her drive for the Republican nomination, Ortman says she is going to work to earn people's trust, quickly if she can. She notes that precinct caucuses are Feb. 4. They kick off the process by which her party will choose a candidate to challenge Franken. She believes that if Republicans can field a strong Senate candidate, it will help other Republicans down the ballot.
Asked about some of the issues that affect southern Minnesotans, Ortman says she wants to see more certainty in a Farm Bill. She also wants federal farm law to be less complex, addressing core purposes, rather than trying to cater to new whims on a regular basis. She approves of separating the food stamp portion of the bill from its sections dealing with actual ag production.
Ortman also says she believes in protecting Social Security and Medicare, as opposed to any reforms involving privatization.
As for her background, Ortman, 51, is an attorney by profession. She is a former Carver County commissioner and has served in the Minnesota Senate since 2002. She is the first woman to serve as the Senate tax committee chairperson.
She and her husband, Ray, have four children.