A week after GOP Congresswoman Michele Bachmann announced she won’t seek a fifth term, former Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer announced he will seek the party’s endorsement to run as her successor.
Emmer addressed supporters, including more than 10 of his former colleagues in the Minnesota Legislature, at a park by the Crow River in Delano, which he represented in the state House as Republican for three terms. He received the GOP gubernatorial endorsement in 2010 and was defeated by Gov. Mark Dayton in a three-way contest that included Independence Party candidate Tom Horner.
Emmer announced his entry into the congressional race with a speech that lasted a little bit more than seven minutes and drew major Twin Cities newspaper and television outlets. He harangued federal regulations and taxes.
“We need our elected representatives and bureaucrats in Washington to leave businesses and people to do what they do best: Create, innovate and prosper once again,” Emmer said.
Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin released a statement criticizing Emmer as a polarizing figure even within the GOP.
“In Emmer’s unsuccessful 2010 run for governor, he drained Republican Party resources and turned off the party’s major donor community,” Martin said. “Many attribute his Ron Paul and Sarah Palin backed candidacy to sending Republican and Independent votes Tom Horner’s way.”
Bachmann in 2012 narrowly defeated her Democratic challenger Jim Graves, despite the 6th CD’s rock solid voting index in favor of Republicans. Graves was planning a rematch with Bachmann, but bowed out of the race a couple days after she announced her retirement. So far no Democrats have announced intentions to run in the 6th next year.
Emmer is the first Republican to enter the race, although there are a couple of elected officials in the St. Cloud area and northern Twin Cities suburbs that are frequently mentioned as considering a run. A number of political observers from the area note that Emmer is a formidable candidate in the GOP endorsement hunt in the 6th CD. Emmer’s base is in Wright County, which has the largest concentration of delegates of any county in the state.
Following his speech, Emmer told reporters he would “absolutely” abide by the 6th CD GOP’s endorsement.
“Democrats historically have not been honoring their endorsements. Republicans now have been talking as though they don’t want to honor them, at least those that have money and they want to pick candidates themselves. I think they are making a huge mistake. The people that are the most important, if there is such a thing, to beginning this process are those grassroots people that care enough about their country that they are willing to take time away from their families and their businesses to show up and have that one-to-one meeting with the people that want to represent them. It starts there, and then they are the ones who do the work knocking on doors, pounding in signs and helping you get over the hurdle of the general election.”
Among the Republicans believed to be mulling a run are state Sen. John Pederson of St. Cloud, state Rep. Matt Dean of Dellwood and Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah. Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier said Emmer’s gubernatorial campaign, in which he won every county in the 6th CD by a large margin, gives him an advantage over other possible entrants who aren’t as widely known.
“I think the advantage Emmer has is that he has run statewide and has run district wide and his name recognition and his favorabilities among the Republican activists who populate the endorsement process are considerable advantages over any state legislator who might challenge him,” Schier said.
Asked what he learned from his unsuccessful gubernatorial run, Emmer said, “This is not a city council campaign, this is not a legislative campaign, this is not a county commissioner campaign. This is a much bigger deal. You have to understand there is a strategy and approach with people on the ground before an endorsement and then you have to transition into an primary and general election strategy.”
Emmer’s announcement event was also a show of strength among former and current GOP state legislators. Current legislators in attendance were Reps. Dave FitzSimmons of Albertville, Glenn Gruenhagen of Glencoe, Tom Hackbarth of Cedar, Jerry Hertaus of Greenfield, Ernie Leidiger of Mayer, Joe McDonald of Delano, Marion O’Neill of Buffalo, Cindy Pugh of Chanhassen and Nick Zerwas of Elk River.
Current GOP state senators that attended were Bruce Anderson of Buffalo, Dave Brown of Becker and Karin Housley of St. Marys Point.
Former legislators that attended were Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch of Buffalo, and Reps. Mark Buesgens of Jordan and Peter Adolphson of Minnetonka.