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Unstoppable Amy

Sen. Amy Klobuchar is arguably one of the most powerful women in the Senate. How does she keep it real?

Senator Amy Klobuchar

MADE IN MINNESOTA

By the time Klobuchar’s “Made in Minnesota” tour wraps for the day in the Duluth Pack manufacturing store, a rickety old building on the city’s blue-collar west side, she’s shaken a couple hundred hands, had several dozen pictures taken, and been given a hands-on lesson in how to hammer brass rivets into the leather handles of super-sturdy backpacks.

On her way out the door she tells Tom Sega, Duluth Pack’s president, that she has a connection to an ABC News producer who might get his products on the network’s occasional “Made in America” segment, and she promises to put them in touch—a promise she keeps.

“She called back and invited me out to D.C. for a roundtable with 15 other Senators and 20 to 30 other businesspeople from all over the country,” Sega says a month later. “And when that was done, we went to the press room and did interviews with the media back here.”

Despite Duluth Pack’s iconic made-in-Minnesota image, Klobuchar is the only politician outside Duluth who has ever stopped in to see Sega’s operation. “She was pretty funny at the forum, too,” Sega recalled. “She held up my briefcase and told everyone we had a ‘show and tell.’ The guy building shipping containers couldn’t beat that.”
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“You have to stay connected to things outside of Washington.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar

You have to consider the source when getting an opinion on Klobuchar from campaign adviser Blodgett, who acts as a kind of grand vizier to Minnesota’s liberal politicians. But a primary part of his job is assessing and grooming talent.

“It’s pretty rare when you find a person who fits the state so well. She’s an incredibly hard worker, she lives a modest life, and she’s downright funny,” he says. “What I’ve seen in this first term is that she’s become much more comfortable in the legislative environment. That wasn’t her strength [as Hennepin County attorney], where she was in an executive job. But she’s gotten very good at the give-and-take in Washington, D.C., a particularly funny place for women, especially in the Senate, but I expect that with reelection she’ll become even more comfortable. As I saw with [Wellstone], that first reelection is a huge confidence builder. Paul learned, as Amy is learning, that it takes over a decade to be effective on the really big issues.”

Simply surviving the conflicts and ego atmospherics of the U.S. Senate is a significant accomplishment, but Klobuchar insists that there’s no magic in what she’s doing other than working hard, being herself, and staying true to the values and people that are important to her.

“You have to keep yourself grounded,” she says. “You have to stay connected to things outside of Washington. For me, it’s my family. The other night, after a particularly long day, when we were up at the Capitol until 7 o’clock because one senator was holding up a bill, my husband and daughter and I went out to eat at a mall in Virginia. I was going on and on about how tough a day it was, but all my daughter cared about was how late Yogen Früz was going to be open. Moments like that help.”

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