|Mayor Norm Coleman (Republican)|
Norm Coleman's greatest challenge in running for a U.S. Senate seat from Minnesota - besides incumbent Democrat Paul Wellstone - may be living down the remaining fallout from his recent party switch. Coleman, mayor of St. Paul from 1993 until 2001, was formerly a Democrat with conservative tendencies, and joined the Republican Party in 1996 while mayor of Minnesota's capital.
The switch did not deter voters, who re-elected the new Republican to a second term as mayor in 1997, making him St. Paul's first Republican mayor in 25 years.
His party switch did draw inevitable criticism, however, especially since it came six months after he spoke at the 1996 Democratic Farmer Labor Party Convention, saying he was there to "proudly proclaim support for President Bill Clinton and Sen. Paul Wellstone."
And the switch seemed to damage Coleman's run for Minnesota governor in 1998 against the outspoken Jesse Ventura, who famously called Coleman, "a rudderless politician willing to say anything to get a vote." Coleman defended himself by saying he had not changed his ideology on any of the issues, and that the St. Paul public had already validated his switch to the Republican Party.
Ventura went on to win the gubernatorial race - but by a narrow two percent lead over Coleman. The 53-year-old candidate grew up in Brooklyn as one of eight children, earning a law degree from the University of Iowa before moving to Minnesota in 1976 to work for the attorney general's office.
He remained in the attorney general's employ for 17 years, serving as Minnesota's chief prosecutor and solicitor general. Coleman remained with the attorney general's office until running for mayor unsuccessfully in 1989, and successfully in 1993.
During his tenure as mayor, Coleman was credited with helping to reduce St. Paul's crime rate by increasing community-based policing. He secured a National Hockey League professional sports franchise, the Minnesota Wild, which brought new jobs to St. Paul. Coleman also helped to revitalize downtown St. Paul, and the last few years have seen healthy business and neighborhood growth.
President Bush has shown personal support for Coleman's run for Senate, and the candidate says Mr. Bush himself convinced him to seek the seat.
Coleman's endorsements also include the Minneapolis Police Federation, the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Police Alliance of Minnesota, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the National Beer Wholesalers Association, the Minnesota Realtors Association, and the Minnesota Snowmobilers Association, among others.
--By Jessica Moore, Online NewsHour