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Democrats may benefit from Entenza dropping out of AG race

ST. PAUL -- Matt Entenza lifted a cloud from above Democrats when he dropped out of the attorney general race, and may have helped his successor. Many agree the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's statewide ticket has a better chance in the Nov. 7 el...

ST. PAUL -- Matt Entenza lifted a cloud from above Democrats when he dropped out of the attorney general race, and may have helped his successor.

Many agree the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's statewide ticket has a better chance in the Nov. 7 election now than before Entenza's Tuesday announcement.

"I certainly think that putting this behind us is very good," said Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar. "It is mid-summer. By the time we really hit the fall election season ... we will have a new fresh face. It puts Democrats back into the driver's se-at, which is where we were before last week."

A year ago, Juhnke was part of what he called "a rebel group" of House members who did not like how Entenza was leading DFL'ers.

The group was unsuccessful at shaking up leadership at the time, and Juhnke and Entenza have not always been on the same page since.

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However, on Wednesday, Juhnke praised Entenza for putting the interest of the party above his own.

"I think it was a wise move on his part," Juhnke said. "He certainly is viable because of the way he handled it."

Entenza read a five-minute statement Tuesday saying he would leave the race.

It came after a week in which he had been pelted with questions about contracting an investigation of Attorney General Mike Hatch, a fellow Democrat and gubernatorial candidate.

Questions also increased in the past week about Entenza's wife, Lois Quam, a corporate official in UnitedHealth Group, and whether Entenza could be fair in continuing an attorney general's investigation into her company.

"Fighting for important public issues is one thing, and fighting in politics is quite another," Entenza said, Quam at his side.

He said the decision was the best for his family and the party. Democrats who know Entenza say the public should believe those words.

"That was potentially the most selfless move they have ever seen Matt Entenza make," said Blois Olson, a DFL analyst and co-publisher of the Politics in Minnesota newsletter.

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Olson and the newsletter's other co-publisher, Republican Sarah Janecek, said Entenza's woes could have hurt other Democrats.

"I think all of Entenza's troubles would have dogged him," Janecek said. "But I do think there would have been some sort of an impact on the rest of the ticket."

If DFL candidates won with Entenza's decision, one Republican may have been hurt the most.

"The big loser in this one is Jeff Johnson," Janecek said.

Johnson is the Detroit Lakes native and Plymouth state representative running as Republican attorney general candidate. He has targeted Entenza since he announced his candidacy more than a year.

Now Johnson will face a new Democrat.

"The Democratic candidates are all credible," Janecek said. "All of the major contenders would be rock solid on the ballot."

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