After her only primary challenger, fellow DFLer Maureen Reed, dropped out this week, State Sen. Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, is turning her full attention toward her ultimate target in the 6th district congressional race: Michele Bachmann.
Clark got into the race last summer and all along her focus has been on incumbent U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., not the DFL primary.
Clark said Bachmann has been busy promoting herself and her right wing agenda instead of working for the people in her district.
"She's been running around the country being kind of a celebrity. And that's fine, but that's not what the job is," Clark said. "We have the highest foreclosure rates, the highest unemployment rates in the state and instead of doing anything or voting for anything that would help people in those situations, she's just said no, and no is not an answer."
Central Minnesota voters first sent Clark, a 48-year-old attorney from St. Cloud, to the state Senate in a special election in 2005. She was re-elected in 2006 when she also rose to the position of assistant senator majority leader.
AT ODDS OVER TAXES
One of the last votes Clark took in the Legislature was to increase income taxes on wealthy Minnesotans. Clark was the deciding vote, and the voting board in the Senate was kept open for several minutes to give her a chance to vote.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed that bill and Bachmann and other state Republicans took the opportunity to label Clark "Taxin Tarryl Clark."
A recent Bachmann radio ad that aired throughout the sixth district criticized Clark for her "vote to raise taxes with our economy on rocky grounds."
After filing her election papers late last month, Bachmann said she was proud to be a loud "no" voice in Washington. Noting Clark's vote to increase taxes, Bachmann said her philosophy, not Clark's, is in line with 6th district voters.
"The fact is that we're taxed enough already. That's what I've been working on for the last three or four years in Congress, it's what I continue to work for if I'm lucky enough to go back this fall," Bachmann said.
Clark defends her vote, saying that it would have ensured that 95 percent of Minnesotans would not have their taxes increased.
"When we have a recession and a budget that is so heavily out of whack ... finding ways to actually pay for services is important," she said. "I have voted to cut a lot of services, and that has been a hard thing. I've also voted against tax bills when I thought it didn't make sense."
On the federal level, Clark said cutting wasteful government spending could save a lot of money. She said the solution to the nation's budget troubles might also include raising some taxes and cutting others.
RACE OUTCOME FAR FROM CLEAR
While Clark and DFL leaders talk optimistically about their chances to take down Bachmann this fall, some analysts say if the Democrats couldn't defeat Bachmann two years ago amid all of the enthusiasm around Barack Obama, they will be hard-pressed to defeat her this year.
Kay Wolsborn, a political science professor at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University, said voters are angry and unsettled right now and even though Bachmann looks to be in a good position, that could change.
"In a sort of scale that goes from very secure to very vulnerable, she's on the vulnerable side of the middle," Wolsborn said. She will have her base, no doubt. The question is: Can she retain enough independent voters?"
Wolsborn said Clark faces her own share of problems as well.
"The question is: Can she get enough ... financial support from all around the country as well as in Minnesota and can she get her name out there?"
Wolsborn said now that there will be no DFL primary contest, Clark can get a jump on the general election. She said that should help Clark attract support from voters and raise money. Through the end of March, Clark had raised $1,116,250. Bachmann had taken in more than double that: $2,356,838.