Former tax chair’s CD 6 campaign touts experience
In Minnesota political circles, Phil Krinkie is best known as one of the state’s most prominent fiscal conservatives. But his day job for more than 30 years was in the customer service business. For three decades, Krinkie worked his way through the ranks in the family-owned Snelling Co., a heating and air conditioning company.
Through that work, Krinkie said he’d learned about how to treat clients. Lesson number one: When they call, they expect someone to pick up the phone.
Krinkie said he plans to bring that customer-service mindset to his campaign in the 6th Congressional District, referring repeatedly to himself as ready to be “hired” to represent the district’s constituents.
It’s a second attempt at that office for Krinkie, who originally left the state House to seek the GOP endorsement in 2006. Krinkie lost that contest to his fellow state legislator, Michele Bachmann, and later that year lost his legislative seat in the general election.
That loss brought an end to an eight-term career in the House for Krinkie, who had been elevated to chair the House Taxes Committee. Krinkie stayed in the public debate through his leadership position at the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, but stayed out of electoral politics until announcing his 6th District candidacy in July.
Krinkie was the fourth Republican to announce a bid in the state’s most conservative district. In order to jump-start his effort, Krinkie soon loaned his campaign $300,000. The gesture served as an early demonstration of self-confidence, which Krinkie calls a necessary step to help him keep pace with front-runner Tom Emmer.
Capitol Report: When did you know you wanted to run for the 6th District?
Phil Krinkie: Well, I first made the decision back in 2005. It seemed like a good idea then. It was a more difficult decision for me this time around. The easier decision would have been to sit on the sidelines, continue with my business and the Taxpayers League. But my challenge is… to put my full effort and experience and knowledge to at least try and change things. In the Legislature my focus was on fiscal issues, eliminating waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars.
CR: What kind of campaigning have you been up to since your announcement?
Krinkie: Everything. When we started out, we were at county fairs. I’ve also been doing the quote-unquote retail politics, trying to touch base with all the activists, going to the BPOU meetings. We’ve done Elephant Club events – I like to say, wherever two or three Republicans are gathered together. We’ve been to Central Minnesota Tea Party and North Metro Tea Party events.
CR: How has the fundraising effort been going so far?
Krinkie: Fundraising has been a challenge, just from the standpoint that we were last ones to get into the race. Obviously Mr. Emmer has done a good job of fundraising in the contest, out early. As a gubernatorial candidate, he obviously has a list of people who donated to him in that race. I’ve been out of the political campaign circuit for seven years. People know me, and people have heard of me, but maybe they haven’t met me and heard my platform, my perspective on a lot of issues, as they have with Tom.
CR: Are you willing to invest any more of your personal wealth into this campaign?
Krinkie: With the $300,000 [self-loan] and the money that we can raise in addition to that, we’ll have adequate resources to be competitive right through a primary. Our view of this is that it’s going to take about $1.2 million, or maybe $1.5 million to run this primary contest. That would mean we’ve got to raise $1 million or more through July.
CR: What has been your main message to voters so far?
Krinkie: The key message is that they are in the position of truly hiring someone to represent them in Washington, D.C. We boil it down to rhetoric versus results. There are many people that talk a good game and can espouse conservative philosophies. I’ve heard one [CD 6 candidate] talking about, “We’re going to create jobs.” Well, people in government don’t create jobs — unless they’re spending someone else’s money.
CR: Beyond Republicans, how would you appeal to independent or moderate Democrats?
Krinkie: Lots of people chastised me for the label Democrats gave me, “Dr. No.”But at the same time, I proposed a lot of solutions to issues — processes that would help in terms of tax transparency and how to make government work more effectively. We have to offer people solutions, meaningful solutions. In the health care arena, people should have their own health care instead of having their government select it. They should be offered multiple options, not fewer options.
CR: Do you plan to seek and abide by the GOP endorsement?
Krinkie: We’re certainly going to seek the endorsement. We want to be very competitive in that process. Having been through this process before, eight years ago, I don’t think 300 people are the end-all and be-all decision makers to decide who should represent 700,000 people in Minnesota. It doesn’t do any good to win an endorsement and not win the primary, and it doesn’t do any good to win the primary and not win the general election.
CR: Michele Bachmann has become one of the most well-known members of Congress, with many fans and critics. How would you judge her performance?
Krinkie: I think ideologically she and I would agree on most things. I think you just have to look at my record in the statehouse to see that I differed greatly in terms of style. I’m not someone who’s a firebrand. I’m not over the top in terms of my messaging. I’m factual-based, and I’m very deliberate. Slow and steady, I think, is the pace, the way you accomplish things in the legislative process.
CR: The district is supposed to be safe for conservatives, but the 2012 election was close. Why do you think that is?
Krinkie: Congresswoman Bachmann had involved herself in a presidential bid, and Mr. [Jim] Graves used that effectively against her. She was out traveling the country in the nominating process, and not paying close attention to her job as a representative and doing work for her constituents. I think to a certain extent that’s probably a trumped-up claim. But the job is representing the 700,000 people of the 6th District, and any time you don’t do your job — or there’s even an impression that you’re not doing your job — people are going to respond to that.
CR: How would you have handled the recent shutdown of the federal government? Should House Republicans have continued to fight the implementation of Obamacare?
Krinkie: I think while health care is certainly an issue of paramount concern for all Americans, that should not have been the line in the sand. The line in the sand should have been the debt limit. That is the crisis, that is what will truly cause us huge economic problems, one way or the other. If inflation kicks in, or we can’t meet our debt obligations, that is truly the issue that Congress needs to be focused on. I would not have voted just to kick the can down the road another three months, as they did.
CR: What issues would you want to work on?
Krinkie: I really think that would be to start work on some type of a balanced budget process. This kind of thinking, of “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today” that exists in Washington, is extremely detrimental to economic growth. I think it allows elected officials a way to avoid accountability. If it’s important enough to fund, it’s important enough to pay for it.