- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

Sen.-elect Norm Coleman, Minnesota Republican, describes himself as a "very pragmatic" conservative who wants to be part of a "let's get it done" coalition in the Senate, and comes to Washington as a two-term mayor and a former Democrat.
Mr. Coleman was first elected mayor of St. Paul in 1993 as a conservative Democrat. He switched to the Republican Party in 1996, winning four more years as mayor the next year. His party affiliation may have changed through the years, but he says that he has always been a reformer.
"My passion is to make sure that the average citizen is being served well by government and that it operates in the most cost-effective manner possible," he said, adding that this includes keeping taxes low. "I was a reformer as mayor, I was a reformer as a Democrat, a reformer as a Republican and I still see myself in the same mold."
Mr. Coleman has secured seats on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and the Governmental Affairs committees.
With his experience as mayor, Mr. Coleman says that he is particularly sensitive to state and local-government opinions on issues. This, he says, fits nicely with the Governmental Affairs Committee, which deals with the state-federal relationship, unfunded mandates and homeland security issues.
"I'm very interested in some of the challenges that cities and states are facing now with some of the budget crises that I think will only become more exacerbated in the next couple of years," he said.
Mr. Coleman, 53, says that as a Republican mayor in a Democratic city, he worked across the aisle to create 18,000 jobs, revitalize the downtown area, bring the National Hockey League back to Minnesota, and boost police presence on the streets all without increasing property taxes.
He supports making President Bush's tax cuts permanent. "I'd accelerate tax cuts if I could," he said, adding that he backs initiatives that "generate capital investment."
He favors the so-called "tripartisan" prescription drug plan in the Senate that would create a prescription drug benefit under Medicare and make a few other changes to the system.
It is estimated to cost about $370 billion over 10 years and is known as the tripartisan plan as it was crafted by Sens. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican; John B. Breaux, Louisiana Democrat; Olympia J. Snowe, Maine Republican; James M. Jeffords, Vermont independent; and Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican.
Mr. Coleman also supports the resolution giving Mr. Bush authority to take military action against Iraq.
He opposes Republican efforts to allow oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, preferring, instead, to focus on alternative and renewable fuel sources, such as soy biodiesel made from soybeans, that "represent important economic growth opportunities" in agricultural states such as his.
Before becoming mayor, Mr. Coleman worked for several years as a lawyer in the Minnesota Attorney General's Office, where he served in the human rights division, then as chief prosecutor and solicitor general for the state of Minnesota. He also made a run for state governor in 1998, but lost to Jesse Ventura.
Although originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., and still retaining the accent, he values his new post on the agriculture committee, since farming is "a vibrant part of Minnesota economy and quality of life." In that capacity, he said, he hopes to "open up markets and create opportunities so that farmers don't have to rely on the government."
He wants the federal government's disaster-relief programs to shift from being wholly reactive to more proactive. He supports reforming the Army Corps of Engineers, investing federal money in flooding countermeasures, such as better flood plains, and financially assisting and encouraging local government to plan and mitigate natural disasters, which he says will save millions if not billions of dollars.
He also would like to establish Economic Development Idea Grants that would encourage innovation and technological development in Minnesota by providing money to those who have ideas that create jobs, but who lack the startup capital.
Mr. Coleman said that he is "thrilled to be entering the Senate," despite recent changes and challenges for Senate Republicans. Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi recently stepped down as Senate Republican leader, and Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee took that post.
Mr. Coleman said unanticipated change is the "nature of the business" in politics.
"Look at my race," he said.
Indeed, Mr. Coleman's race for Senate was dramatically and unexpectedly altered when his opponent incumbent Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash about a week and a half before Election Day.
Both parties were forced to regroup in the aftermath, and Mr. Coleman ended up defeating former Vice President Walter Mondale, who replaced Mr. Wellstone on the ballot.

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