Business executive Mike McFadden has stepped out as the first Republican candidate to challenge Democrat Al Franken for his U.S. Senate seat.
McFadden, a 48-year-old executive at the Lazard Middle Market finance firm, announced his plan to set up a campaign committee in a YouTube video posted on Wednesday afternoon. The move allows McFadden to start raising cash in his quest to oust Franken in 2014. Franken is completing his first term in office after beating former Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman by just several hundred votes in 2008.
In his video, McFadden stressed his family values and education issues. McFadden serves on the board of directors of the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis.
“I am very concerned about the direction this country is headed,” McFadden said in the video. “We have a very stagnant economy, and we have amassed an enormous amount of debt, which will be passed on to our children unless something is done. Our education system is broken; we spend more money than any country in the world other than Switzerland, and we get sub-par results. This is not acceptable.”
McFadden’s campaign announcement was overshadowed by the news of GOP U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s impending retirement. At the beginning of a state Capitol news conference on Wednesday afternoon, McFadden referred to Bachmann’s announcement as the “big news of the day.”
“It’s the end of one political career and hopefully the beginning of another political career for myself as we announce the forming of our campaign committee,” McFadden said.
Reporters questioned the timing of the McFadden’s announcement, in light of the brief notice that he gave for his Capitol basement press conference. McFadden, however, said it “wasn’t a spur of the moment decision.”
“If we are going to have a competitive race, and I guarantee you we will have a competitive race here, we need to start raising money and building the team in order to be competitive with Al Franken,” McFadden said.
McFadden singled out education spending decisions and the federal debt as key areas of difference with Franken.
“There are two wealthy people running for U.S. Senate here,” McFadden said. “Like Al Franken, I’ve been fortunate in my business career. He’s been fortunate in his entertainment career. We both love our families and care about them. But that’s the end of the similarities, and I want to talk about those for the next 18 months.”
McFadden said he will seek the GOP endorsement, but he stopped short of saying he would abide by it. McFadden is part of a developing wave among 2014 statewide office seekers: wealthy Republicans from the suburbs who are newcomers to politics. Businessman Scott Honour is running for governor as a first-time candidate.
The liberal advocacy group Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM) immediately went on the attack, comparing McFadden to failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. “Minnesotans should know that Mike McFadden is really just Minnesota’s Mitt Romney,” ABM wrote in a news release. “McFadden’s mergers caused thousands of job losses, including his layoffs at a Duluth paper mill. McFadden’s only record is of firing hard-working Minnesotans.”
McFadden said candidates who have business experience but haven’t held elected office should have a place in the race. He will take a leave of absence from the Minneapolis-based Lazard during his run for the Senate.
“Do we want a class of professional politicians? Or do we want people that have had success in their different professions that then decide to spend time and serve their country? I’ve always believed in a concept of learn, earn and then serve,” McFadden said.
As political role models, McFadden listed GOP Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
See McFadden’s full video announcement below: