Entenza makes pitch, with focus on outstate

FAIRMONT – Matt Entenza says he will be a strong advocate for rural Minnesota if elected state auditor.

Entenza has been touring southern Minnesota in recent days as he seeks to knock off incumbent State Auditor Rebecca Otto. One of these two Democrats will advance from next week’s primary election to face Republican Randy Gilbert in November.

Entenza is a former leader of Democrats in the Minnesota House of Representatives, where he served from 1995 to 2006. He most recently has been working as a senior adviser to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton.

His campaign biography touts his roots in Worthington, where he graduated from high school.

As state auditor, Entenza says he wants to “do more than balance the books,” a criticism of Otto for not adequately informing the public and state lawmakers about the issues facing outstate Minnesota.

First, Entenza says the state must address school funding inequities between rural and metro areas. He said rural Minnesota faces a worsening economic outlook if its schools cannot get fair, adequate funding.

“[The auditor] needs to give the public a clearer understanding about our two-tiered education system,” Entenza said.

A second major issue on his agenda is the financial integrity of the state’s $70 billion pension fund, and how it relates to attracting police and firefighters in rural Minnesota. He said the state auditor is a trustee for the pension fund and must work to protect and strengthen it, so burdens do not fall on outstate cities.

Entenza says he would run an auditor’s office more in the fashion of former auditors Mark Dayton and Arne Carlson, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, both of whom become governors. Entenza said the two men were stronger proponents for rural communities.

He also says he would be an auditor who would get out to rural areas on a regular basis, not just during campaign season.

Entenza lives in St. Paul and has three grown sons.

After graduating from Worthington, he attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls. After his sophomore year, he transferred to Macalester College in St. Paul. He received a degree in environmental studies.

After graduating, Entenza worked at the H.B. Fuller Foundation. He left the Foundation in 1984 after being recruited to work on the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign by a Carleton College professor named Paul Wellstone, who would go on to become a U.S. senator from Minnesota.

After graduating from the University of Minnesota Law School, Entenza took a position at the Minnesota Attorney General’s office as an assistant attorney general in the charities division. Following the attorney general’s office stint, he served as an assistant Hennepin County attorney, prosecuting white-collar crime.

When his district’s seat in the state House of Representatives became vacant in 1994, Entenza decided to run and was elected.

During his time in the Legislature, Entenza says he fought for the core values of the DFL, such as increased investment in schools. He says he helped pass many of the consumer protection laws currently on the books, and championed property tax relief for low- and middle-income Minnesotans.

In 2003, Entenza was elected House DFL leader.

After leaving the Legislature, Entenza created Minnesota 2020, a progressive think tank dedicated to fostering statewide discussion in four area: education, health care, transportation and economic development.