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Entenza vows to focus on rural Minnesota

Matt Entenza is running for state auditor in the Aug. 12 primary. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Minnesota auditor candidate Matt Entenza lived the last of his teenage years in rural Minnesota and said he plans to focus on Greater Minnesota if he’s elected to office this fall.

He is seeking the DFL ticket in the primary race Aug. 12. The DFL-endorsed candidate is incumbent Rebecca Otto.

Before moving with his family to Worthington, Minn., from California, he spent his summers in Minnesota with his grandmother.

“I would be the first auditor who grew up in rural Minnesota in two generations,” he said. “I think it makes a difference to be from rural Minnesota.”

Besides helping out on the farm in his younger years, Entenza said he’s gotten a real feel for rural living and wants to help those who live there.

As the auditor, Entenza said the people in that role audit cities, counties and schools and work with state pensions.

“We certainly have to make sure that happens,” he said of auditing the state entities, “but we have to do more than the books. We have to advocate for the rural areas.”

He said that working to protect pensions is also one of his top priorities. He said he plans to fight for those who have “worked over 20 years in the rural area get their fair shake in funding.

“It’s important to go out in the community and have discussions about pensions,” he said.

He said he will also fight for local government aid to rural cities “because I came from Greater Minnesota” and understand the struggles of the rural communities.

“Many of them (in office) don’t understand that,” he said of the need for funding rural communities because of the fight cities have for any funding.

“Most politicians think the world ends at Maple Grove,” he said.

Besides the help he wants to bring to the state as auditor, Entenza said he also wants all of his constituents to know what’s going on in the auditor’s office.

“Right now, the office has low visibility,” he said, planning to be much more in the public’s eye if elected to office.

He lists Gov. Mark Dayton and former Gov. Arne Carlson as good examples of elected officials who were not afraid of the high profile job. Both used the state auditor position as springboard to the governor’s office.

After graduating from Worthington High School, Entenza attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., before transferring and graduating from Macalester College in St. Paul with a degree in environmental studies.

From there, he graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School and went to work at the Minnesota Attorney General’s office.

In 1994, he was elected to the State House of Representatives. While in office, Entenza passed Minnesota’s Do Not Call law, which placed restrictions on phone solicitations.

Entenza is the founder of Minnesota 2020, a progressive think tank that is “dedicated to fostering discussion and debate in four key issue areas vital to Minnesota’s future prosperity: education, health care, transportation and economic development,” according to his website.

Entenza ran in the Minnesota governor primary four years ago, losing the bid to Dayton. He said that they had a good relationship though, and after the election, Dayton asked him to serve as senior advisor on Energy and the Economy.

Entenza said that his work as a white-collar crime prosecutor gives him an edge in the election battle as well.

“I will not forget where I came from,” he said.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.