Republicans aren't the only ones with heated August primary races on the horizon.

For Democrats, it's the state auditor race. Former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza shocked plenty of fellow DFLers last week when he decided to challenge incumbent DFL State Auditor Rebecca Otto. She is seeking her third-term and was easily endorsed last month at the DFL state convention.

Entenza, of St. Paul, said he decided to run because he thinks the state needs a more active state auditor. If elected, he said he would fight to protect government pensions, stop corporate giveaways and investigate education spending to make sure rural schools are being treated fairly.

"It's been a very quiet office that has just been focused on the minimal standard. I think we need an auditor in the model of Gov. (Mark) Dayton, which is to be very active, very proactive," he said.

Dayton served as state auditor from 1991 to 1995.

Entenza, who grew up in Worthington, said he would be one of the only state auditors from greater Minnesota. He said he has strong support for many people.

"I was urged by a lot of people to think about it, and spent time thinking about it and made a decision that it was time to do it," he said.

Otto said she was surprised by Entenza's decision to run, saying he never talked to her about it. She defended her work, saying she has run the office in a nonpartisan manner and been committed to promoting transparency. She said she has also been willing to investigate issues "without fear or favor."

A prime example is the driver diversion programs operating in many cities and counties that she had serious concerns were illegal. A district court judge later agreed with her, shutting down Wabasha County's diversion program.

As for Entenza, she said she doesn't think he understands the duties of the office because it's not about creating policy, it's about oversight.

"Minnesotans don't want a partisan. They don't want somebody who is trying to further their political career. They want someone who is going to be there to dig in and do the important work on their behalf," she said.

Most DFL leaders are siding with Otto. That includes Dayton and Minnesota DFL Party ChairmanKen Martin. Locally, Rochester DFL Reps. Tina Liebling and Kim Norton are both backing Otto.

"Rebecca Otto is one of the best office holders around. She is one of those people that just does the job and does it well, and she is not running for something else, she is not trying to get personal power or any other agenda. She just wants to do a good job," Liebling said.

Entenza does have the support of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis. As for 1st District DFL Rep. Tim Walz, he said he is staying out of the race. He said he generally doesn't endorse candidates.

The primary will be Aug. 12. The winner will take on Independence Party candidate Patrick Dean and Republican Randy Gilbert.

Walz weighs in on Bergdahl

Walz said he is concerned that the Obama administration failed to consult Congress before moving ahead on the deal to release Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. But he also said it is important to wait until all the evidence regarding the situation is released before jumping to conclusions.

"I think asking the questions and trying to understand the implications is absolutely something we should do, but I would just be cautious. Passing value judgements before all the evidence is there is something we have to be a little cautious of. I don't think that serves any purpose," he said.

Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan nearly five years ago. He was released May 31 in exchange for five Taliban detainees who were being held by the U.S.military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Some members of Congress have criticized the deal, raising concerns that Congress was never consulted and that high-level Taliban prisoners were released and sent to Quatar as part of the deal.

One of Walz's opponents, Republican Jim Hagedorn of Blue Earth, sent out a statement last week criticizing Obama for the prisoner release, saying he fears those terrorists will end up on the battle field again.

"Based upon information presented thus far, it appears President Obama released dangerous al Qaeda terrorists in exchange for an American who may have been less than fully loyal to his duty, our country and the cause of freedom," Hagedorn said.

Heather J. Carlson covers politics for the Post-Bulletin and writes the Political Party blog.

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