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Cablegate: State Secretary Julia Kloeckner to Challenge Kurt Beck In

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OO RUEHAG RUEHLZ
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O 110942Z FEB 10
FM AMCONSUL FRANKFURT
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TAGS: PGOV PREL GM
SUBJECT: State Secretary Julia Kloeckner to Challenge Kurt Beck in
2011 State Election

REF: 09 FRANKFURT 1931

1. (SBU)SUMMARY: The Rheinland-Pfalz (R-P) Christian Democratic
Union (CDU) has chosen Julia Kloeckner, Member of the Bundestag and
State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Agriculture and
Consumer Protection, as lead candidate for the 2011 state election,
improving chances for the party to bring about a change in
government. Beck's image has suffered significant damage from the
Nuerburgring scandal (Reftel) and the R-P CDU in general is
suffering from unauthorized use of police data in connection with
that scandal. Kloeckner, however, stands above the local problems
since she has spent her political career almost exclusively in
Berlin. END SUMMARY

A Strategic Masterpiece

-----------------------

2. (SBU)With the decision of Christian Baldauf, state and caucus
chairman of the R-P CDU, to step aside and nominate Kloeckner as
the party's lead candidate, the CDU's chances of winning the
elections have increased. Baldauf not only set his personal
ambitions aside by nominating Kloeckner, but he has picked the most
promising candidate. Kloeckner will be officially selected as
lead candidate at a R-P CDU state convention on April 17 in Mainz.
Contacts in the R-P state chancellery told consulate
representatives that the SPD was shocked by Baldauf's unanticipated
move. Although Kloeckner has been viewed as a future rival, no one
in the SPD expected her to run as early as 2011. Christian Goebel,
economic expert at the state chancellery, told consulate
representatives in the summer of 2009 that "the SPD is lucky not
having to deal with Kloeckner. Should she ever decide to run,
things might get very uncomfortable for Beck." Baldauf's decision
also came as a surprise to parts of the CDU. Jan Metzler, regional
chairman of the Junge Union in Baldauf's constituency, lauded his
decision but admitted that Baldauf had surprised his inner-party
critics and friends.

A Weakened SPD and a Stumbling CDU

------------------------------------

3. (SBU)The R-P CDU has nominated Kloeckner at a favorable time.
Beck and his cabinet have been under pressure since former Minister
of Finance, Ingolf Deubel, resigned over the financing disaster of
the Nuerburgring amusement park (Reftel). On September 3, the R-P
State Parliament approved a CDU and FDP request to initiate a
parliamentary investigation committee. CDU and FDP contacts told
consulate representatives that the investigation committee will
probably last through the end of 2010 and will therefore have a
direct impact on the SPD's election campaign. In addition, Beck's
project has produced negative headlines ever since its official
opening in July 2009. Construction costs have doubled, the number
of visitors has remained 60% below the anticipated 500,000 per year
and several days after the opening, one of the major attractions,
the giant rollercoaster, broke and injured seven persons.

4. (SBU)According to well placed ConGen sources, the R-P CDU wanted
to use the investigation committee as a tool to humiliate Beck and
his cabinet and will do anything to drag out the investigation well
into the upcoming election campaign. However, instead of using the
advantage of the Nuerburgring scandal, the R-P CDU has produced a
scandal on its own. CDU member Michael Billen, whose daughter is a
police officer and Peter Dincher, a police officer, illegally took
information from a police database about the investigation of the
Nuerburgring scandal, with the intention of possibly using it to
increase political pressure on the ruling SPD party. While Dincher
has resigned his seat, Billen refuses to do so. Billen's
resistance to give up his mandate, has shed a negative light on
Baldauf's assertiveness and has offered the SPD an opportunity to
direct attention away from its own problems.

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Shooting-Star versus Veteran

----------------------------

5. (SBU)A general consensus exists in the R-P CDU that Kloeckner is
the best possible candidate for the 2011 election. She is the
daughter of a R-P vintner, studied in R-P, and in 1995 was elected
German wine queen (Weinkoenigin) for one year. Since joining the
Bundestag in 2002, however, she has spent most of her political
life in Berlin and is therefore not tainted by local scandals which
presently occupy SPD and CDU alike. At the age of 37, she is a
fresh, new face in local R-P politics -- whereas Beck, who will be
turning 61, is the longest serving Minister President in Germany
(since 1994). Some of Kloeckner's greatest assets are her down-to
earth personality, her strong roots to the state and her outgoing
character. Beck's popular slogan over the last 16 years "close to
the people" could also apply to her. Like Beck, she comes from a
small town (Bad Kreuznach) and enjoys tremendous popularity since
her time as German wine queen.

6. (SBU)COMMENT: With the unanimous decision of the R-P executive
board to nominate Kloeckner, the CDU is sending a strong competitor
into the state 2011 race. For Beck and his ruling SPD, Kloeckner
is the most challenging candidate. She will be difficult for Beck
to attack and could signal a new political era in R-P. She will
be someone to watch closely regarding her national political future
as well. END COMMENT.

Bio Note

--------

7. (U)Born in Bad Kreuznach in 1972, Kloeckner grew up as the
daughter of a R-P vintner. She studied political science,
education and Catholic theology. In 1995, she was elected German
wine queen (Weinkoenigin) for one year. After several years as a
journalist, she became the editor-in-chief of the "Sommerlier"
Magazine in 2001 -- a position that she holds today. She became
involved in politics in 1997 when she joined the R-P Junge Union
and was first elected into the Bundestag in 2002. In 2006, she was
elected deputy state chair for the R-P CDU. Three years later, in
2009, she became state secretary at the Federal Ministry for
Nutrition, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. Kloeckner is also a
member of the Central Council of German Catholics.
ALFORD

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