The victor in the Minnesota attorney general's race last week, who made Norwest Corp.'s merger with Wells Fargo & Co. a campaign issue, said he has not given up hope of keeping the company's headquarters in Minneapolis.
Michael Hatch, a Democrat, may have about as much hope as Brooklynites wanting to bring the Dodgers back from Los Angeles. But in a state where a former professional wrestler, Jesse Ventura, won the governorship, it seemed for at least a moment as if anything was possible.
Mr. Hatch had called on Minnesota officials last summer to challenge Norwest's merger application at the Federal Reserve.
He was concerned about proposed losses of 830 jobs, plus residual economic effects, from the move of the headquarters to San Francisco.
The merger closed last week, and Norwest has officially assumed the Wells Fargo name. Mr. Hatch, at one time viewed as a longshot for attorney general, still wants the company to consider staying in the Twin Cities.
"We put all this effort to build a baseball stadium for the Twins, but we don't try to keep Norwest," Mr. Hatch said, referring to a two-year debate on construction of a new major league ball park, which remains unresolved.
Mr. Hatch said he plans to discuss the Norwest issue with the governor- elect.
Mr. Ventura, who stunned the political world with his upset victory as a third-party candidate, is on record as opposing a taxpayer-funded ball park but has not commented on the bank merger.
This year, Mr. Hatch asked Gov. Arne H. Carlson and Commerce Commissioner David B. Gruenes to investigate the impact of Norwest's departure. Gov. Carlson deferred to Mr. Gruenes, who rejected the idea.
Now, Mr. Hatch says, "what I'm talking about is not a banking issue, it's an economic issue."
Mr. Hatch, who ran mainly on consumer and business-related issues, said he does not want to see Minneapolis fade as a regional financial hub.
He conceded that dealing with job losses may be more appropriate for a governor than an attorney general.
"If he (Mr. Ventura) wants me to be involved, I'd love to," Mr. Hatch said.
At a Federal Reserve hearing in Minneapolis in September, Norwest president Leslie Biller acknowledged there would be job cuts but vowed that the company would try to offer employees positions elsewhere in the merged organization.
"Our goal is to offer as many opportunities as we can to our affected (employees) for comparable positions," Mr. Biller said.
A Wells Fargo spokesman declined to comment specifically on the matter last week, saying, "What's needed to be said has been said."