Capitol Alert

Can a Midwest moderate win over California? 5 things to know about Amy Klobuchar

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is hitting the campaign trail, insisting she’s the person to beat President Donald Trump given her success in more conservative parts of the country.

With California having an earlier primary — and the largest number of delegates — Klobuchar is hoping a more practical set of policy proposals will excite voters in the Golden State.

Here are five things you need to know about Amy Klobuchar as she campaigns in California:

1. Klobuchar banking on a ‘practical but aspirational’ message

Klobuchar is hoping voters in this state will back a more moderate candidate. Citing California Democrats’ performance in the 2018 midterms in which they picked up seven House seats, including several in Orange County, Klobuchar thinks voters ultimately want someone who can win and motivate them to show up on Election Day.

She said she helped drive strong voter turnout in her home state in 2018 as the highest-ranking official on Minnesota’s ballot.

“I am from the Midwest. That’s where we had a lot of trouble winning (in 2016),” Klobuchar told The Sacramento Bee’s “California Nation” podcast. “My mom’s from Wisconsin, and I will be able to win those states, especially Wisconsin and Michigan...I’m someone that has brought in a lot of independent voters (and) moderate Republicans.”

2. She’s got California connections

Klobuchar attended the University of Chicago Law School during the 1980s, where she met her best friend, Kate Stacy. Stacy has worked for the city of San Francisco for more than 30 years and now focuses on land use. Klobuchar said she and her family have taken trips with Stacy across the state to go hiking and visit national parks. She noted that she sometimes visits California and works with the state “all the time” as a member of the Senate’s agriculture committee and co-chair of the bipartisan tourism caucus.

3. These are her most ambitious and realistic policy goals

Klobuchar said the most difficult item on her policy agenda will be cutting child poverty in half over the next decade, while eliminating it in the next generation. She added that her “cataclysmic” goal is to get the country carbon-neutral by 2050.

Something more realistic she thinks she could get done in her first years as president is to pass a comprehensive immigration bill through Congress.

“Republicans want to move, they’re just afraid of Donald Trump,” she said. “You get rid of him, you get it done.”

Her plan would not decriminalize illegal border crossings because she does not believe that could get through. Instead, she’d push for “an arduous path to citizenship” for people who unlawfully entered the United States and obtained temporary legal status through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

She also wants a detailed immigration bill that cleared the Senate in 2013 returned to the floor if she were sworn in as president. Klobuchar cited Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Senate version of the bill would have reduced the deficit by $158 billion over 10 years. Klobuchar said she’d want to spend some of that money to enhance security, process asylum cases faster and improve conditions at detention centers.

4. Does Klobuchar push her staff too hard?

Klobcuhar has the highest rate of staff turnover in the Senate at 34 percent, according to an analysis from LegiStorm ranking the “worst bosses” in Congress. The group examined data from 2001 to 2018 and placed greater weight on departures of senior officials compared to lower-level staff. Former staff members have accused Klobuchar of mistreating them, through multiple reports, the New York Times and Buzzfeed, and documents show her berating workers by email in the morning over simple mistakes.

Asked if voters should be concerned about her behavior, she urged them to evaluate her for record.

“I love my staff,” Klobuchar said. “I do push people. That is true. But I believe that we need to have really high standards. ... I’m going to continue to be someone that has those high standards. You know, you can always do better. I’ve said that before. But, overall, I think you’ve got to look at my record of accomplishment and the number of staff we’ve had — I think over 20 — that have gone on to have very important jobs in the Obama administration.”

5. Gun violence is a top priority for her

During the Democratic National Committee’s 2019 summer meetings in San Francisco, Klobuchar discussed how she’d work to prevent gun-related deaths in the United States. If elected president, she’d immediately authorize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct more research into the issue. Past CDC leaders have feared retribution from the Trump administration if they chose to more closely examine the problem.

She’d work around Congress to close the “boyfriend loophole,” which presently allows convicted stalkers and physically abusive relationship partners to access guns.

She also wants to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Klobuchar said she’d like to see a national gun buyback program that gives people the option to get their money back. In the first Democratic presidential debate in June, she distinguished between allowing people to sell their weapons and having the government confiscate them.

California recently implemented mandatory background checks on ammunition purchases. Klobuchar wants to look into that further before supporting it at a national level.

“I’m not being evasive, I just want to look at it and see what it is,” Klobuchar said. “It makes sense. What I’d like to do is stop selling these high-capacity magazines, so you wouldn’t need background checks if you did that. I want to see how it would work together.”

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Bryan Anderson is a political reporter for The Bee. He covers the California Legislature and reports on wildfires and transportation. He also hosts The Bee’s “California Nation” podcast.
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