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Entenza quits attorney general race

ST. PAUL - A man who for years wanted to be Minnesota attorney general today dropped out of the race.

State Rep. Matt Entenza, DFL-St. Paul, said he pulled out because of accusations leveled in the past few days.

"While I'm confident that I could win the race for attorney general, obviously in this environment staying in this race would hurt the Democratic Party and the progressive issues we care about so deeply," Entenza read from a prepared statement.

Entenza's withdrawal shocked fellow Democrats. Party leaders said they did not know who might replace Entenza, who was endorsed by the party during its June state convention in Rochester. The announcement came on the last day for candidates to file for office, leaving Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party leaders scrambling to find a replacement.

"With so little time and so many attacks - from anonymous faxes to attacks on my family - it is impossible to fight these attacks and win this race without it taking a serious toll on the people and the party we care about the most," Entenza said.

On Monday, Republican attorney general candidate Jeff Johnson told reporters that Entenza had been lying for the past week and he declared that integrity now as a major campaign issue.

Headlines across Minnesota for the past week were problems for Entenza, culminating with a Monday report from an unidentified source that Entenza and his wife did not reveal the full amount of their campaign contributions in 2003.

Entenza's troubles began last week when a blogger reported that he hired a firm to look into current Attorney General Mike Hatch's office. Hatch and Entenza both are Democrats, but are rivals. Entenza openly has longed to be attorney general for years and jumped at the chance when it became apparent that Hatch would run for governor.

Johnson said he thought Entenza lied about the Hatch research, including the fact that he paid just $200 for it.

"I question whether Matt Entenza can meet that job requirement - for truth and integrity," Johnson said.

With his wife, Lois Quam, at his side, Entenza read a brief statement at 11 a.m. today and left without answering questions. In a dozen years in the House, the final ones as House minority leader, Entenza always has been eager to talk to reporters.

"I believe public service and politics is bigger than any one person, any one problem or any one party," Entenza said. "And I am hopeful that despite what has happened today, the future for Minnesota and Democrats is brighter today and will be even brighter tomorrow."

With Entenza out, at mid-day the only Democrat in the attorney general race was Jennifer Mattson. She is a 29-year-old who Democratic Party leaders did not support when Entenza was in the race.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.