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Former Sen. Boschwitz Seeks Rematch in Minnesota

May 30, 1996

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Rudy wants a rematch.

Former Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, R-Minn., was ousted in 1990 by upstart political science professor Paul Wellstone in a campaign notable for lots of money (Boschwitz’s) and a rickety green bus (Wellstone’s).

Now the 65-year-old plywood magnate is coming back for more.

``I have a job to finish,″ Boschwitz said.

He faces his first test Friday at the state Republican convention in Duluth, where he and five others are competing for the party endorsement. Boschwitz is not expected to be endorsed; former state Commerce Commissioner Bert McKasy has led by a wide margin in several delegate straw polls.

But Boschwitz plans to run in Minnesota’s primary in September anyway, banking on name recognition from his two terms in the Senate. In Minnesota, the winner of the primary is the party’s nominee for the election in November.

Although the party endorsement is a strong recommendation in the primary, social conservatives have held sway at conventions in recent years and candidates who snub the endorsement process have had success.

Boschwitz’s primary challengers are expected to be McKasy and state Sen. Roy Terwilliger. Terwilliger is casting himself as a moderate. McKasy and Boschwitz have similar mainstream Republican views and have been courting the more conservative wing of the party.

Wellstone ``is ready to run against any person that the Republicans put up. Our view is that there are not a lot of differences between Rudy Boschwitz and Bert McKasy,″ said the Democrat’s campaign manager, Jeff Blodgett.

McKasy criticizes Boschwitz’s Washington voting record on taxes and spending. He also has the advantage of not having been beaten by Wellstone before.

``It’s hard to ignore the fact that Rudy Boschwitz is the guy who is primarily responsible for Paul Wellstone being our senior senator right now,″ said McKasy spokesman Pat Rosenstiel.

A poll this month of likely Republican primary voters put Boschwitz well ahead of McKasy and virtually tied with Wellstone. A significant number of voters remain undecided.

Boschwitz avoids acknowledging the other Republican contenders. He skipped a debate last week attended by the five others, saying his opponent is Wellstone.

Boschwitz is known as Minnesota’s plywood king for founding Plywood Minnesota, a chain of do-it-yourself stores now named Home Valu. But he also tries to cultivate a folksy image with flannel shirts and his milk stand at the State Fair, for years a pit stop for weary parents with thirsty children.

Boschwitz outspent Wellstone 7-to-1 in 1990 and lost anyway. This year, Wellstone has the fund-raising edge so far: about $3 million to Boschwitz’ $2 million.

Boschwitz acknowledges that he did not take Wellstone seriously enough in 1990. Another factor was a last-minute letter to Jewish supporters criticizing Wellstone’s commitment to Judaism. Boschwitz later apologized.

Boschwitz said this election is about smaller government and lower taxes. He uses the phrase ``embarrassingly liberal″ at every opportunity to describe Wellstone, and he has put up billboards calling Wellstone ``Senator Welfare.″

Wellstone says with pride that he is the Republicans’ No. 1 national target.

``I think that Wellstone is much better understood than he was in 1990 when he had no record,″ Boschwitz said. ``He is clearly the most liberal member of the United States Senate.″

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