The early years
Mike Rothman spent his early years chasing his two younger siblings through the clusters of row houses that make up the Glendale Townhomes in Minneapolis, the city’s oldest public housing projects for low-income residents. In its 50+ year history, Glendale has been home for everyone from GI’s attending college after WWII to a vibrant community of Hmong and East African immigrants today. Mike lived at Glendale at the height of the civil rights era, and many of his neighbors who were activists and forerunners of the local movement.
Mike’s mother, Elaine, was a special education teacher and active union leader in the state. His father worked as an architect and designed buildings throughout the community. After Mike turned 5, his mom raised him and his siblings primarily on her own. Mike watched his mother graduate from the University of Minnesota with a teaching degree and later buy the family their first home in Chaska. At that time, Chaska was a much smaller and more rural town than it is today, with just over 4,000 people. Mike spent his summers working hard as a caddy at Hazeltine National Golf Club.
Had it not been for a growing interest in politics – the culmination of many evenings spent watching Mondale and Humphrey speak through the television set – Mike may have pursued his first dream: becoming a hockey goaltender. He practically lived in the crease for much of his childhood, diving for saves like his then-idol, four-time Stanley Cup Champion “Gump” Worsley of the Minnesota North Stars.
But when it came time to make a decision in high school – either hockey or politics and law – Mike followed his gut and joined the debate team. He and his debate partner were devoted to their pursuit, once toting a set of six briefcases carrying 130 pounds of notes to a competition. It all paid off in the end when the duo won eleven tournaments and Chaska’s first state debate championship in 1980.
Mike’s experience in policy debate was so formative to his budding career in politics that years later, he would become one of the founders of the Minnesota Urban Debate League (MNUDL), a private program created to fund debate teams in urban schools. In doing so, Mike hoped to give more young Minnesotans the opportunity to become engaged, informed advocates for their communities. The program, now operated by Augsburg College, currently serves more than 750 students at 39 partner schools throughout the state.
30 years fighting for the people
Even as a high school senior, Mike held strong beliefs about standing up for teachers and workers. When the teachers at his school were prohibited from striking, Mike and two other classmates led and organized the entire student body for a walkout and rally to help spotlight the teachers’ plight and their right to negotiate a better contract.
After high school, Mike graduated with honors from both Carleton College and the University of Minnesota Law School. Mike studied political science, and his time at Carleton overlapped with that of then-professor Paul Wellstone, whose inspiring leadership and community engagement captivated Mike along with so many other Minnesotans. When Wellstone first ran for the U.S. Senate in 1990, Mike helped organize the work for two straight days to assemble more than 10,000 lawn signs for the campaign.
That same year, Mike organized the DFL party’s statewide bus tour. Along the way, the bus pulled to the roadside so that the DFL candidates could join a group of Mankato nurses in a union rally.
Mike’s working experience extends beyond the executive branch of state government to include clerking for a judge on the Minnesota Court of Appeals in 1987 and being a staffer for legislators in the Minnesota State Senate in 1988-1992.
In 1993, Mike moved to Los Angeles and began working in private practice along with some of the top trial and appellate litigators in the country. The work was challenging and Mike became a strong presence in the courtroom. He moved back to Minnesota in 2002 and practiced law as a partner at Winthrop & Weinstine until 2011.
Safeguarding the consumers of Minnesota
In 2011, Governor Mark Dayton appointed Mike as the Commissioner of Commerce to lead Minnesota’s top consumer protection agency, overseeing the insurance, real estate, securities, state banking, credit union, telecommunication, and energy industries. During Mike’s tenure at Commerce, the Department…
- Protected Minnesota consumers by enforcing the law. Commerce increased its enforcement actions by 500 percent under Mike’s leadership – cutting down on unfair business practices, predatory lending and fraud against Minnesotans. Commerce secured settlements with major life insurance companies requiring them to pay more than $226 million in overdue benefits to Minnesotans. The department’s work to hold criminals accountable led to fraud charges totalling $150 million in impact in the past five years.
- Fought hard to protect seniors from financial fraud and exploitation, working closely with local law enforcement, social service agencies, financial professionals and senior advocacy groups throughout Minnesota.
- Responded to natural disasters, and helped Minnesotans stay warm during cold Minnesota winters. Each year, Commerce provided financial assistance with home heating costs for tens of thousands of financially-vulnerable Minnesotans – including seniors, veterans, persons with disabilities and families with small children. And the department worked with disaster victims across Minnesota to help file insurance claims and get back on their feet.
- Saved money for Minnesota utility ratepayers. Commerce’s successful advocacy before the Public Utilities Commission saved Minnesota ratepayers $665 million in rates sought by electric and gas utilities.
- Advanced Minnesota’s renewable energy economy, creating more clean energy jobs. Renewable resources accounted for more than 22 percent of Minnesota’s electricity generation in 2016, compared to less than seven percent a decade earlier. Minnesota now has over 57,000 clean energy jobs – growing 5.3 percent in just the past year alone.
- Expanded career opportunities for Minnesota’s military veterans by providing assistance for veterans seeking licenses in the real estate and insurance professions.
- Strengthened the safety and soundness of Minnesota’s state financial institutions. Following the Great Recession, more than one-third of state-chartered banks were considered “troubled banks.” It is a very small number now, with no state-chartered bank failures since 2014.
- Returned record amounts of missing money to Minnesotans. Commerce returned $182 million of unclaimed property on nearly 100,000 claims over the past five years of Mike’s tenure.
A national leader
In 2016, President Obama nominated Mike to serve on a national board overseeing insurance agents and brokers. Mike also served as President of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), focusing his priorities on enhancing cybersecurity in the industry, prosecuting criminals and fraudsters and protecting seniors from financial abuse and exploitation. Mike served on the executive committee of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. He was also a member of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial and Banking Information Infrastructure Committee (FBIIC), which coordinates federal and state officials to improve the reliability and security of the financial sector.
Mike is grateful for the honor and privilege of serving Governor Dayton and the people of Minnesota as Commerce Commissioner for the past seven years.
Spending time with family
Today, Mike lives in Minnetonka with his wife, Shari Latz Rothman, a professional harpist who grew up in Golden Valley. Shari graduated from Hopkins High School, and has a Bachelor of Music in Harp Performance from the University of Michigan and a Master of Music in Harp Performance from the University of Southern California. Shari and Mike have three kids: Sophi, Adam and David. They attend school in the Hopkins School District. Mike devotes his limited free time to his family – attending sports games, music performances and social functions.
Mike would be honored to serve as the people’s Attorney General, where he will continue to fight for all Minnesotans. Please join him in building a stronger Minnesota for everyone.