On a frigid Sunday in February, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar announced she was running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
Supporters say that Klobuchar’s Midwestern roots would have broad appeal in the 2020 election, and that her steady, quietly competent presence will be a welcomed alternative to the brash and unpredictable President Donald Trump.
On the other hand, Amy Klobuchar’s “Minnesota nice” persona, and her preference for compromise and consensus over bold measures, haven’t excited the most fiery progressive segments of the Democratic party the way fellow 2020 candidates like Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders have.
At the same time, Klobuchar has come under fire for being too tough on her staff, which has had one of the highest rates of turnover in Congress. Klobuchar could be “not just demanding but often dehumanizing” to her staffers, according to a New York Times investigation based on reports from anonymous former aides. They say Klobuchar, when frustrated, sometimes threw binders and other objects at them, and she asked them to handle menial chores like washing dishes. (A Klobuchar spokesperson told the Times, “The senator has repeatedly acknowledged that she can be tough and push people hard.)
Continuing in our series of major 2020 Democratic presidential candidate profiles, here’s what voters should know about Amy Klobuchar’s upbringing, her finances, and where she stands on key money issues like taxes and health care.
Amy Klobuchar: Her Early Days and Current Net Worth
Amy Klobuchar grew up in Plymouth, Minnesota, a suburb outside Minneapolis. Her mother, Rose, was an elementary school teacher, and her father, Jim, was a sports writer and newspaper columnist. Amy Klobuchar’s grandparents were immigrants, and her Slovenian-born grandfather found work in the iron ore mines of northern Minnesota.
In fourth grade, Amy was sent to the principal’s office because she was the first girl to wear pants to school instead of a dress, as required at the time. “I wish I could say that I talked back or started a girls-can-wear-pants petition drive, or even more dramatically, a lawsuit,” Klobuchar recalled in her 2015 memoir, The Senator Next Door. But all she did was cry, walk home, change into a skirt, and return to school.
In 1974, Jim Klobuchar became a pioneer of multi-day bike trips around Minnesota, and wound up leading groups annually for nearly four decades. He wrote columns in longhand and dictated them into pay phones somewhere along the road. Amy sometimes tagged along as a teenager, getting exposed to people and parts of her state that she wouldn’t have otherwise encountered. “The bike trips were just this roving gang of people with nothing in common except they liked to bike, so it was a great way to experience a cross-section of Minnesotans and to see the state,” Amy Klobuchar recalled.
Her high school’s valedictorian, Amy Klobuchar went to Yale University. She majored in political science and was an intern for then-Vice President Walter Mondale. Before graduating magna cum laude in 1982, Klobuchar wrote a 250-page thesis on the politically charged building of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome that wound up being published as a book, Uncovering the Dome.
Humphrey, the former Minnesota Senator and vice president, is one of Klobuchar’s political heroes, and his photo is on the wall in Klobuchar’s office in the Senate. “I am convinced that now, more than ever, our nation needs a good dose of the courage and optimism and moral purpose that defined Hubert Humphrey’s life,” Klobuchar wrote in The Senator Next Door.
Klobuchar earned a law degree from the University of Chicago in 1985, and joined the powerful firm Dorsey & Whitney — where Walter Mondale and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun had worked — mainly billing her hours with clients in the telecommunications industry.
In 1993, Klobuchar married John Bessler, who was a lawyer in Minneapolis at the time and went on to write several law books and is now a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law. They have one child, Abigail, who was born in 1995 and graduated from Yale in 2017. Amy Klobuchar was elected Hennepin County attorney in 1998, and became the first woman elected to represent Minnesota in the U.S. Senate, in 2006.
As of 2012, Amy Klobuchar’s net worth was between $310,000 and $1 million—a spokesperson at the time said the true number was “somewhere in the middle” of that range—and she had a college fund set up for her daughter worth $50,000 to $100,000, according to financial disclosure forms. More recently, Amy Klobuchar’s net worth was been estimated at $1.1 million. Klobuchar reportedly has no debt, and the bulk of her assets are in mutual funds and insurance policies.
Amy Klobuchar 2020
Amy Klobuchar has arguably been the most popular politician in Minnesota for a decade. She won the 2006 election for U.S. Senate with 58% of the vote, and cruised to two more Senate victories with 65% support in 2012 and 60% in 2018. Her campaign battles have sometimes seemed lopsided: At one point in the 2012 race, Klobuchar’s campaign had raised $4.6 million, compared to a total of $34,000 for three possible Republican opponents, Mpls.St.Paul magazine reported.
Klobuchar is widely viewed as intense, yet still calm, down to earth, and likeable, with moderate policies that have appeal across party lines. She’s a Democrat, and she has called for stricter gun control measures, but says she frequently talks with gun owners and only advocates for gun laws that hunters support. It’s often pointed out that in 2018 Amy Klobuchar won several parts of Minnesota that voted for Donald Trump in 2016.
Like two other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates (Cory Booker and Kamala Harris), Amy Klobuchar’s national profile increased significantly during the Senate hearings of Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. After noting her own father’s battles with alcoholism, Klobuchar asked Kavanaugh if he’d ever blacked out while drinking. Kavanaugh snapped in response, saying, “I don’t know. Have you?” Later in the hearing, Kavanaugh apologized to Klobuchar for his outburst.
For the 2018 Senate campaign, Klobuchar raised $10.6 million. That may sound like a lot, but it’s a fairly small fundraising total compared to the recent Senate campaigns of competing 2020 Democratic presidential candidates like Elizabeth Warren ($26 million) and Kamala Harris ($15 million).
Amy Klobuchar also seems to be struggling to raise money as quickly as some of the other high-profile 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. The Klobuchar campaign said it raised $1 million in the 48 hours after she announced she was running. Kamala Harris, meanwhile, raised $1.5 million in the first 24 hours of her 2020 campaign, and Bernie Sanders raised $4 million in only 12 hours after he said he was running in 2020.
Like many other Democratic candidates, Klobuchar says that she will reject money from corporate PACs (political action committees) and rely instead on donations from grassroots supporters.
Amy Klobuchar on Taxes, Health Care, and Other Issues
One reason why Amy Klobuchar may have trouble raising funds — and her profile — with Democrats nationally is that her competence, willingness to compromise, and bipartisan tendencies do not excite the most progressive voters. In her CNN “Town Hall” discussion a week after she launched her campaign, Klobuchar said that the does not support leftwing initiatives such as the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, or free public college.
Instead of free tuition to a four-year college, for example, Klobuchar says she supports expanding grants and other reforms that would make college more affordable. As for health care, Klobuchar is also pushing for reforms and moderate measures to make it more affordable and accessible, rather than taking dramatic action by instituting Medicare for All or another single-payer health care system.
Amy Klobuchar often points out that she has had success as a legislator seeking to improve health care. Based on her own personal frustrations while her daughter was born, Klobuchar helped pass one of the country’s first laws forcing insurers to allow mothers and newborns to stay in the hospital at least 48 hours after a birth. She has also introduced legislation to lower prescription drug prices, and to lower insurance premiums and health care costs in general.
Klobuchar joined every other Democrat in the U.S. Senate by voting against the Republican tax overhaul. “I’ve long called for tax reform and bringing down the business and middle-class tax rates, but it needs to be done responsibly, not by adding $1 trillion in debt,” Klobuchar said of the GOP tax cuts. “I support helping the middle class, simplifying the tax code and bringing back money that’s held overseas to fund infrastructure at home.”
Klobuchar has shied away from aggressive attacks on the nation’s richest citizens, and has made no calls for a “wealth tax” along the lines of plans from Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. On the other hand, Amy Klobuchar is in agreement with most other 2020 Democratic candidates who think the federal minimum wage should increase to $15 an hour.