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6th District race figures to be a slugfest

After endorsing conventions held on back-to-back weekends by Republicans and Democrats in the 6th Congressional District, the race to win the seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Mark Kennedy is showing signs of becoming a high-profile race.

State Sen. Michele Bachmann, R-Stillwater, was chosen by Republican delegates to run for the seat that stretches in oblong fashion from the eastern Twin Cities suburbs, northwest through St. Cloud.

In a sign that this particular political race is already being closely watched in Washington, D.C., the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) sent out a couple of press releases last week that analyzed Bachmann’s voting record in the state Senate.

“Michele Bachmann has made a name for herself in Minnesota by voting against mainstream values like children’s health and safety, time and again,” said Bill Burton, DCCC communications director. “Bachmann’s extremist crusade may work with right-wing political activists, but it simply does not represent the values of Minnesotans.”

The GOP is turning up the heat on their opponents, too.

Candidates for the DFL endorsement in the 6th District, Patty Wetterling and Elwyn Tinklenberg, competed at their party’s endorsing convention last weekend, after press time.

Before DFL delegates met in Monticello, however, state GOP Chairman Ron Carey issued a release that singled out Tinklenberg for remarks he made on Minnesota Public Radio last week about supporting impeachment of President Bush.

“The citizens of the 6th District deserve better than irresponsible calls for the impeachment of the president. There will be a clear choice in this race between Michele Bachmann’s common sense conservatism and Elwyn Tinklenberg’s and Patty Wetterling’s far-left records.”

Blois Olson, co-publisher of Politics in Minnesota, said the 6th District race is likely to gain national attention among competitive congressional races.

“I think this is the beginning of what is going to be a very contentious, highly watched race in Minnesota,” Olson said.

The 6th District has favored Republicans in recent national elections. Voters in the 6th re-elected Bush with 57 percent of the vote after he made campaign visits to the district. Observers say the area also has an independent streak, as witnessed by Jesse Ventura’s strong showing in the district in his successful run for governor in 1998.

Bachmann, who was elected to the state Senate in 2000, has been the leading proponent of an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Although the same-sex marriage issue hasn’t passed the Senate, social issues resonated with her supporters at the endorsing convention. During the convention, Bachmann noted that a variety of issues are important to the district, including fiscal conservatism, control over local decision-making and anti-abortion views.

“People come to their conclusions based on issues,” Bachmann said.

Bachmann established a significant lead in the first ballot and cleared the 60 percent threshold necessary to clinch the endorsement on the third ballot. Her opponents for endorsement included two prominent members of the Minnesota House: Ways and Means Chairman Jim Knoblach and Taxes Chairman Phil Krinkie. St. Cloud businessman Jay Esmay also sought the GOP endorsement.

In her campaign for endorsement, Bachmann proved to be well-organized, said Minnesota political observer Barry Casselman.

“Everyone talks about her emphasis on social issues, the marriage issue. I think ultimately she was the best organized of the candidates. She appeared to have a very effective campaign throughout the period of campaigning,” said Casselman, who writes a nationally syndicated column.

Steve Smith, a political science professor at Washington University in St. Louis who lives in Blaine, said Bachmann’s commitment to social issues will resonate in some parts of the district. But the area isn’t so overwhelmingly Republican that a candidacy based on social conservative principles is a sure thing in the general election. He noted the area favors Republicans by a 55 percent to 45 percent margin.

“She comes in with the task of trying to attract middle-of-the-road voters in a district that only slightly advantages her party,” Smith said.

Wetterling is a child-safety advocate who is known nationally for her advocacy on behalf of missing children. She became involved in children’s safety issues after her son, Jacob, was abducted and never found. Tinklenberg is a former mayor of Blaine and transportation commissioner in the Ventura administration.

Bachmann’s congressional bid leaves open her Senate seat in District 52. The district, which favors Republicans, will meet in Hugo on Thursday to select a candidate. Rep. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake, is reportedly seeking the party’s nod to succeed Bachmann.


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