Michele Bachmann says she's "a woman on a mission." The 50-year-old state senator from Stillwater needed just three ballots pass the 60-percent threshold needed to capture her party's endorsement to run for Congress. Sixth District delegates then gave Bachmann a unanimous vote of support. Bachmann faced three strong challengers: Jay Esmay, a businessman from St. Cloud, as well as state Representatives Jim Knoblach of St. Cloud and Phil Krinkie of Lino Lakes. None of the three came close to Bachmann in the delegate voting. But they all stood together on the auditorium stage at Monticello High School to support the endorsed candidate. Bachmann later said the competition helped her.
"The great thing about this race is the high quality of all four candidates," she said. "So this forced all of us to do a very good, agressive job. And the great thing is it was like a rock in a rock polisher for 14 months. So I'm just grateful that now we have a united front."
Bachmann proudly describes herself as the most conservative member of the Minnesota Senate, both socially and fiscally. She's been a leading voice in the effort to ban same-sex marriages. She also fought to replace the academic standards used in public schools.
"I like her tenacity, her willingness to stand when everybody else fades away, and just her willingness to get out there and fight," said Steve Mize, a delegate from Otsego.
There wasn't much fight left for Bachmann's opponents. Rep. Phil Krinkie, a well-known fiscal hawk in the Minnesota House, never did better than 12 percent of the vote. He was topped on two of the three ballots by political novice Jay Esmay. Rep. Jim Knoblach portrayed himself as the most electable candidate in the field, but finished a distant second. Knoblach supports Bachmann, but sees some challenges ahead.
"I think she'll have to broaden her appeal beyond the Republican base that she certainly has done very a good job appealing to so far. You know, Michele is a charismatic person who has brought a lot of people out with a lot of energy to support her. And I think there will also be a good number of people with energy opposing her," Knoblach said.
Republican Party leaders say they like their chances in November with Bachmann. DFL Party officials like their own chances. Party Chairman Brian Melendez talked about the 6th District campaign during an appearance at the 5th District DFL convention in St. Louis Park.
"Now we've got a couple of great candidates. But if the Republicans were to choose someone with intellegence and compassion and courage, they're probably going hold on to that district. That's the bad news. The good news is they just endorsed Michelle Bachmann," Melendez said.
Sixth District DFLers meet next Saturday in Monticello to endorse a congressional candidate. They'll pick between child safety advocate Patty Wetterling and former Blaine mayor Elwyn Tinklenberg. John Binkowski of St. Mary's Point recently won the Independence Party endorsement in the 6th District.