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Entenza speaks on election, education during visit

Following last weekend’s state DFL convention, gubernatorial candidate Matt Entenza wrapped up his week-long tour around Minnesota with a stop in Austin Thursday as he launches a primary campaign.

Entenza was among a handful of candidates vying for the DFL endorsement in Duluth, but he lost out to House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the first woman to be endorsed for governor by a major party in the state’s history. Now, Entenza will join former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton in challenging Anderson Kelliher for the DFL nomination as the Aug. 10 primary nears.

Speaking from the Coffee House on Main Street, Entenza said he’s up for the challenge of knocking off an endorsed candidate and a former Senator.

“Without a doubt, I’m the candidate with the clearest vision for the state,” the Worthington, Minn., native said.

That vision begins with what Entenza dubs “the clean energy economy.” Specifically, he said this means investments into wind turbines, bio-fuels and other renewable resources — resources that the candidate noted are abundant in southern Minnesota and could help the area thrive in the future.

“The way we’re going to go forward is to grow our way to greatness,” Entenza said.

Entenza’s second talking point Thursday was education, an area in which he said improvement is needed. He said Minnesota’s schools used to be the best, or among the best, in the country but have slipped in recent years. Entenza said Thursday that a reliance on standards-based testing is part of the problem, and he proposed that the state pull away from federal No Child Left Behind Testing — and, possibly, some federal funds — as well as other standards-based testing.

“We need to get rid of silly tests,” Entenza said, “and let teachers teach.”

Entenza, founder of the think tank Minnesota 2020 and a former state representative, said he thinks his vision will carry him to the DFL nomination and, eventually, the governor’s office. Asked if he was concerned about not having the party endorsement, Entenza noted that it’s been 40 years since an endorsed candidate has won an open seat.

He also said he’s not concerned about engaging in a three-way battle for the DFL nomination while state Republicans — who started their convention Thursday — are expected to have a clear-cut candidate by Friday.

“I think all the attention will be on the Democrats,” Entenza said. “We’re going to unite on Aug. 10 … I think Democrats are hungry to win.”

Indeed, the DFL has not had someone in the governor’s office since Rudy Perpich left in 1991. Currently, Republican Tim Pawlenty holds the seat, but he announced last year that he would not be running for a third term.

After the primary in August, the state general election is set for Nov. 2.