Tax attorney joins Minnesota Senate fieldby Mark Zdechlik, Minnesota Public Radio
Another candidate has emerged for the DFL endorsement to run against Republican U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman in the 2008 election. Tax attorney Bob Olson joins comedian Al Franken and attorney Mike Ciresi in the race for the support of party activists. Olson is proposing massive investments in programs to move the U.S. toward energy independence.
St. Paul, Minn. — In announcing his bid for the DFL Senate endorsement, Bob Olson talked a lot about weaning the nation from its dependence on foreign energy. He's promoting a $300 billion, 10-year investment in alternative, environmentally friendly sources of energy such as wind power.
Olson says such an investment would stop $1 billion a day from leaving the U.S. to pay for foreign energy. He says plan would be an economic boon for the country.
"When we implement these massive loan guarantee funds and tax incentives that I'm talking about, our economy will blossom," says Olson. "When we save a billion dollars a day, and keep it in our own economy and recycle it as macroeconomics project six to 10 times a year -- that $365 billion a year that recycles in our economy will make our economy blossom. It will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs."
Olson lives in the western Twin Cities suburb of Orono. He works as a tax attorney in downtown Minneapolis and he owns a small chain of banks in central Minnesota. Olson is passionate about wind energy and founded an organization to promote it.
In 1994, Olson ran as the DFL endorsed candidate for Congress in the 3rd District, and lost to Republican Jim Ramstad.
In his Senate race, Olson will compete with Al Franken and Mike Ciresi for the support of DFL activists. All three Democrats largely share a political philosophy. Each favors universal health care, increased taxes on the wealthy, and investments in alternative energy. Each also agrees going to war with Iraq was a bad idea.
But Olson says his tax expertise and knowledge about the economics of wind energy set him apart from his competitors.
"I don't believe that Mike nor Al know how to get this done," says Olson. "When we do implement the technologies and create huge profits in the United States, it's going to take a boring tax lawyer to get it done right."
Most Minnesotans probably know someone named Bob Olson, but have no idea who Bob Olson the new Senate candidate is.
But he is a familiar face to many DFL insiders. He's been involved in party politics since the 1970s, and currently holds a position on the state DFL's central committee.
Joe Kunkel, a political scientist at Minnesota State University Mankato, heard Olson speak last month at a DFL event in southern Minnesota where he promoted his alternative energy agenda.
Kunkel predicts Olson will have a tough time competing against Ciresi and Franken.
"The DFL activists and the potential delegates will be polite, but I think that people are going to be looking at the heavy hitters that are already in the race," says Kunkel.
Kunkel says Olson might be running in hopes ensuring the issue of energy independence plays a prominent role in the Senate race.
But Olson says he's running to win. He plans to raise money from business associates and DFL activists, and says he'll spend about $20,000 a month on his effort to secure the endorsement.
He says he's been speaking with DFLers for the past two months -- in some cases appearing right alongside Ciresi and Franken -- and Olson says he thinks activists are looking for an alternative.
"Traditional delegates to the convention might object to the idea that you have to be famous or wealthy to get the endorsement," Olson says. "We have a lot of strong, smart quality Democrats in Minnesota that should be eligible for statewide office, and be eligible to go to Washington."
Olson will find out whether he can capture the interest of DFL activists a year from now. That's when delegates to the state convention will gather to endorse a candidate.
- All Things Considered, 06/05/2007, 4:50 p.m.