In a surprise move, retired Mayo Clinic Dr. Patricia Simmons jumped into the University of Minnesota Board of Regents race, making a run at a third term on the board.
Simmons told members of a joint-legislative committee on Tuesday that she hadn’t planned on running for the 1st Congressional District seat, but said she “felt a responsibility” to run after one of the finalists for the seat, retired Mayo Dr. Claire Bender, dropped out last week. Simmons said community leaders had urged her to run again for the seat.
During the regent selection process, some had expressed concerns about Simmons having to recuse herself form some votes because of her ties with Mayo Clinic. The Rochester pediatrician said that is no longer an issue since she retired from Mayo Clinic in December.
“I have now eliminated a conflict of interest or a perceived conflict of interest,” Simmons said.
The Regent Candidate Advisory Committee had recommended to lawmakers two finalists for the 1st District seat — Bender and Grazix Animal Health CEO Randy Simonson of Worthington. After Bender dropped out last week due to personal reasons, former Hayfield Republican Rep. Randy Demmer announced he’d make a bid for the seat.
In the end, members of the House and Senate higher education committees voted to recommend both Simmons and Simonson for the 1st District seat. Members of the Minnesota House and Senate will decide who gets the seat during a joint convention of the Legislature. Making the vote interesting is the Legislature’s close partisan split, with 101 Democrats and 100 Republicans.
The Board of Regents is the governing body of the University of Minnesota and its five campuses, including the University of Minnesota Rochester. There are five open seats on the 11-member Board of Regents, including the 1st Congressional District seat.
Demmer said in an interview after the vote that he’s dropping his campaign for the seat and won’t lobby lawmakers in hopes of getting nominated during the joint legislative convention. Demmer said he jumped in at the last minute because he felt it was important there be at least two candidates for the seat and one of them be from the Rochester area. With Simmons competing for the seat, those concerns have been addressed.
“It would have been a great honor, and it was great to be part of the process,” Demmer said. “The dynamic really changed when Patti decided to run again.”