Rep. Betty McCollum (D)
Elected: 2000, 5th term.
Born: July 12, 1954, Minneapolis .
Home: St. Paul.
Education: Inver Hills Comm. Col., A.A. 1980, Col. of St. Catherine, B.A. 1987.
Family: Divorced; 2 children.
Elected office: N. St. Paul City Cncl., 1986-92; MN House of Reps., 1992-2000.
Professional Career: Teacher; Retail sales & management.
The congresswoman from the 4th District is Betty McCollum, a Democrat first elected in 2000. The daughter of a military intelligence officer, she grew up in North St. Paul and graduated from the College of St. Catherine. For 11 years, she taught high school social studies and then was a retail sales manager for 14 years at Dayton’s department store. She was also raising two children. After one of them was hurt on a slide in a city park, McCollum tried without success to get the city of North St. Paul to make immediate repairs. So in 1986, she ran for the North St. Paul City Council and was elected. She served until 1992, when she was elected to the state House of Representatives after defeating incumbents in both the primary and general.
|Betty McCollum (DFL)||216,267||(68%)||($719,710)|
|Ed Matthews (R)||98,936||(31%)||($79,648)|
|Betty McCollum (DFL)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (70%), 2004 (57%), 2002 (62%), 2000 (48%)
In February 2000, Democratic Rep. Bruce Vento announced that he had malignant mesothelioma and would not seek re-election. He died on October 10, 2000. McCollum was endorsed by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in the September primary. She faced three opponents, but with the DFL’s endorsement, McCollum won easily, with 50% to 23% for state Sen. Steve Novak. Republicans nominated state Sen. Linda Runbeck, a vigorously anti-abortion candidate. McCollum backed prescription-drug coverage under Medicare and opposed tax cuts before Congress paid down the debt. Runbeck, who opposed gun control and took conservative positions on health care and education, attacked McCollum and her Democratic allies for running “hateful, vicious attack ads” that distorted her positions on guns. This was a three-way race, thanks to the candidacy of former Ramsey County prosecutor Tom Foley, a longtime DFLer who ran on the ticket of Gov. Jesse Ventura’s Independence Party. Once again, McCollum won unexpectedly easily, 48%-31%, with 21% for Foley.
In the House, McCollum has a consistently liberal voting record. She is an ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom she calls a mentor, and delivered the speech formally nominating Pelosi as party whip in October 2001. With Pelosi’s help, McCollum has secured some plums, including a seat on the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and in 2006, the Appropriations Committee seat that had been held by former Rep. Martin Sabo, a Minnesota Democrat. In the 111th Congress (2009-10), McCollum was given a seat on the Budget Committee. Pelosi also named McCollum to a task force to consider how to enforce House ethics rules.
Earlier, McCollum worked on the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind education bill as a member of the Education and Labor panel and backed the House version of the bill; later, she joined the opposing camp because she said the administration had not put sufficient money into the program to make it work. She also sponsored legislation that would crack down on diploma mills that sell worthless degrees.
On the Foreign Affairs Committee, McCollum was a vocal critic of the war in Iraq, citing faulty intelligence as a reason for her strong opposition. In 2007, she was the chief House sponsor of the Global Child Survival Act, an attempt to decrease child-mortality rates.
An important local project for McCollum has been the Central Corridor, an 11-mile light-rail link between downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis. She had secured an initial $2 million for the project and was incensed when conservative Republicans targeted proposed additional funding as pork barrel spending. She and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty clashed over her insistence that he sign a statement supporting congressional funding for the project. When Pawlenty vetoed a companion state funding plan in April 2008, the project seemed dead; McCollum called the veto “reckless and irresponsible.” Following the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in August 2007, she backed an increase in gasoline taxes for nationwide infrastructure rebuilding.
McCollum has been re-elected easily. In 2004, Peter Vento, son of the late congressman, ran as the Independent Party nominee. But he did not campaign much and got just 9% of the vote. McCollum is sometimes mentioned as a possible statewide candidate, but she has declined opportunities to run.
In 2008, she voiced unusually tough criticism of Democrat Al Franken in his campaign to unseat Republican Sen. Coleman. In May, she called some of the comedian’s written work, which had appeared in Playboy and other publications, “pornographic writings that are indefensible.” Then in August, McCollum, reverting to form as a party loyalist, endorsed Franken and said she would vote for him. In January, after the state canvassing board certified him as the winner in his close contest with Coleman, McCollum said Franken should be immediately seated.