Former Minnesota secretary of state Joan Growe and former state Sen. Becky Lourey have many similarities. Both are DFLers. Both have been candidates for higher office (Growe for the U.S. Senate, Lourey for governor). Both are considered groundbreakers among women in politics.
But they have one striking difference. Growe supports Hillary Clinton for president. Lourey does not. And they are equally passionate about their positions.
“I’m just very worried about her being our commander in chief,” Lourey said of Clinton.
Specifically, Lourey objects to Clinton’s vote as a U.S. senator in 2002 to authorize the war in Iraq. Lourey had been an activist against the war. Her opposition strengthened after her son Matt was killed in 2005 when his Army helicopter was shot down about 35 miles north of Baghdad.
“If I could read the back pages of the New York Times, and read the articles that said there were no weapons of mass destruction, why wasn’t this senator doing that? Why wasn’t she looking at that documentation and examining it harder?” Lourey wonders. “She should have been a voice for the truth.”
Her doubts about Clinton actually go back much further. As a state representative and state senator, Lourey represented the dairy farmers of Kerrick who objected to the use of the bovine growth hormone, first developed and marketed by Monsanto.
The Clinton administration approved use of the hormone in 1993 in an FDA decision that critics say was influenced greatly by Hillary Clinton’s work with Monsanto during her days as an attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Lourey has no doubts about the Hillary Clinton clout. “With her connection and her family’s connection with the Rose Law firm, whose clients were Monsanto and Wal-Mart, under the Clinton administration they benefitted greatly on public policy,” Lourey said.
Lourey persuaded the Minnesota Legislature to pass a law allowing farmers to label their milk as hormone free but, she recalled, “Monsanto fought us hard.”
Growe is equally ardent in backing Clinton.
“She’s strong and knowledgeable about foreign policy issues. She knows leaders, she knows staff,” Growe said. “On domestic issues, she’s been in the Senate. She has a good sense of what the middle class needs and wants.”
And Clinton is a woman.
“In my mind, it’s a plus that she’s a woman. Statistically, it’s been proven that the more women gain top positions, the more other women are inspired to do the same,” Growe said. “I think she really, really cares about women and children. I think she’s a terrific role model and that will help in those nations where governments have oppressed women.”
Does it bother Growe that, as secretary of state, Clinton had to pacify some of those governments?
“That’s part of being the secretary of state,” she replied.
What about the Clinton power plays?
Growe shrugs off these concerns. “Anyone who is successful is self serving. Don’t we all use our contacts to get ourselves ahead?”
Does the Iraq war vote concern her?
“I didn’t agree with her on the vote but I’m not going to hold that against her,” she said.
But while Growe sets asides concerns in favor of what she calls “the bigger picture,” Lourey cannot walk away from Clinton’s past.
“These things aren’t old to me; they are as new to me as ever,” Lourey said. “These things never fade for me.”
And that is the crux of the divide between two of the state’s most visible women leaders about the woman who may be the next leader of the United States.