Former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza’s campaign for state auditor filed a complaint on Monday against incumbent State Auditor Rebecca Otto, accusing her of disseminating false information related to what he calls her past support for voter ID legislation.
The complaint, which Entenza Campaign Manager Dave Colling filed with the Office of Administrative Hearings, knocks Otto for a June 5 Facebook post denying that she had previously supported voter ID legislation during her tenure in the House of Representatives. “Disappointing Matt will say anything,” the post goes on to read.
In a previous interview with PIM, Otto, who served one term in the House, similarly dismissed allegations that she’d once supported voter ID. “This is the dirtiest politics that there is out there,” Otto said in an interview on Tuesday evening. “It’s the only way for him to get media, and it’s nonsense.”
“It was not around in 2003,” Otto wrote in the Facebook post after being asked about the allegations. “No one can find a bill on the issue when I served.”
According to the legislative records, Otto supported a 2003 bill that would have required a voter to provide a “picture identification document” to take advantage of same-day voter registration. Entenza had also taken shots at Otto’s past legislative record in the opening salvo of his unexpected bid for the auditor’s office, which he announced abruptly last Tuesday with minutes to go before the candidate filing deadline.
“We’ve been trying to talk about issues and values since the beginning of this campaign,” Colling said in a statement. “Rebecca Otto voted twice in support of Voter ID legislation and she needs to take responsibility for those votes instead of pretending they didn’t happen.”
Political analyst David Schultz, a Hamline University Law School professor, said Entenza’s goal is threefold: “He’s trying to rally his base, draw attention to his campaign, and damage her.”
With the exception of DFL U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, an Entenza supporter, the party has almost completely unified around Otto and widely maligned Entenza. “The way he went about this clearly was a little bit more devious in my opinion, and I think it will come back to haunt him,” DFL Party Chair Ken Martin told PIM last week. “This is something altogether different, and I think this will be the final nail in the coffin for Matt Entenza’s political career.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Martin issued this statement about the Entenza campaign’s complaint:
“Minnesotans must be able to count on their State Auditor to get the facts straight and not distort for his or her personal gain. That’s what we are seeing in Matt Entenza’s complaint against our DFL-endorsed, two-term State Auditor Rebecca Otto. Entenza is trying to make the case that State Auditor Otto supports Voter ID because, as a House member, she voted for a non-controversial compliance bill the state had to get through to bring Minnesota into compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002.
“The fact is that the bill passed unanimously in the House, with Entenza voting for it too….
“Cheap lies and twisting of the facts are qualities we can never tolerate in a State Auditor.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the Entenza campaign issued a statement of its own, expressing “disappointment” with Martin’s comments. It went on to note: “The final bill that was passed unanimously that Chairman Martin is referring to was the bill after it came out of conference committee and the Senate DFL stripped the Voter ID language from the bill.”
Otto isn’t without controversy, either. She’s faced heat from some Democrats for her vote in October 2013 on the state’s Executive Council to block exploratory leases for nonferrous mining in northern Minnesota.
An administrative law judge must review the complaint from Colling. If the judge finds it has probable cause, a hearing to review evidence would be scheduled. The two Democrats are competing for the party nomination in the Aug. 12 primary elections.