A rainbow arch of gay political strength could stretch across St. Paul if Libertarian candidate Bob Odden achieves a seat as state auditor this November.
Odden, an openly gay man, hopes his opinions on GLBT rights will win him votes in his candidacy for the auditor's position. Electing more openly gay people to state government offices is key to improving conditions for the queer community, says the 47-year-old Minneapolis resident.
"Someone speaking out would be helpful [for the community]," Odden says. In keeping with his Libertarian vision of a hands-off government, he says he hopes to address Minnesota's sodomy law and its refusal to recognize gay relationships and rights. He also thinks that having a gay man as a financial watchdog might make GLBT organizations more comfortable in approaching the auditor's office for assistance.
It is possible, too, notes Odden, that being elected to a state office will make it easier for other GLBT candidates to be elected. Citing the examples of state Rep. Karen Clark (DFL-Minneapolis) and Sen. Allan Spear (DFL-Minneapolis), Odden says, "No one can claim that gays and lesbians are unfit for public office. Once someone's [been elected], it helps take away all the stigma."
In 1996, Odden ran for the District 52 state-
senate seat, drawing a modest 3 percent of the vote. He entered the ninth-ward race for Minneapolis City Council in 1997 and earned a respectable 17 percent in the primary and 33 percent in the election.
This year Odden believes his luck will improve. Though he worries that the Reform Party may take some votes from Libertarians in other races, he notes that the absence of a Reform Party candidate for state auditor may give him an advantage. His opponents include incumbent Republican Judi Dutcher, DFL candidate Nancy Larsen, and Progressive candidate Joseph Pescher.
"Bob is one of the harder working candidates," says Charles Test, state chair of the Libertarian Party. Test says Odden proved his commitment to the GLBT community during the '98 Gay Pride parade, when he hiked the whole parade route on crutches because of a broken ankle.
Odden questions the effectiveness of former auditors. Current auditor Dutcher too seldom offers an opinion on her findings, he says. "You can run the office just number crunching," he says, "or you can make sure you're out there keeping people informed."
Odden, who works in the loss-prevention department of Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, claims he is a perfect match for the duties of state auditor. "It fits my personality," he says. "I want to help people. It will be hard work, but I think it will be a lot of fun."