Business executive Jim Graves announced Thursday that he will run again for Congress next year against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann in Minnesota's 6th District, who won re-election in November by a narrow margin.
"Last year's lesson is clear: If we compete with her from day one, we'll win," Graves said in a fundraising appeal to his supporters. "Voters have abandoned her. Republicans have abandoned her. This is ours."
Until he ran against Bachmann last year, Graves had never sought elective office and instead had focused on building his hotel business. Still, Graves outdid all of Bachmann's previous opponents and came within one and a half percentage points of defeating her.
Graves, who is confident he would win a round two, said he could do a better job representing the central Minnesota district.
"I think there's a lack of representation in understanding what needs to be done and how we can really get this country moving forward," he said. "I think that 35, 37 years in business has provided me a good skill set to do that. I know the art of the deal. I know how to bring people together."
In his first campaign against Bachmann, Graves spent nearly $2.3 million, including a $250,000 of his own money. He declined to say how much of his own money he plans to spend this time, but he said he is not a fan of self-financing.
Bachmann declined an interview request. She has not formally said whether she is running for a 5th term next year. But in response to Graves' announcement, the Bachmann campaign unveiled a video that portrayed Graves as a puppet who would serve as a rubber stamp for President Obama and Democratic leaders in the House.
In a separate fundraising email, Bachmann predicted she could lose re-election in "one of the most expensive campaigns of our lifetime" unless she has the resources to fend off Graves.
Given how close Graves came last time Bachmann might need the help. The House Majority PAC, which spent more than $36 million in the last round of elections on behalf of Democrats. That included $1.5 million in Minnesota's 8th District, where Democrat Rick Nolan defeated U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack.
This year, the group has named Bachmann its number one target. The PAC will do whatever it can to help Graves defeat Bachmann in 201, spokesman Andy Stone said.
“...Bachmann has been the best candidate in the past, but I think that she's met her match. I think Graves is going to be a very formidable candidate.”Stephen Frank, St. Cloud State University political science professor
"I am confident that voters in the 6th District will recognize that Michele Bachmann has been focused for years on generating national headlines and on her own celebrity and not on their needs," Stone said.
Bachmann's unsuccessful presidential campaign may have hurt her last year. Graves used it repeatedly to try to make the point that she was ignoring the people in the 6th District.
St. Cloud State University political science professor Stephen Frank said he thinks Bachmann's presidential campaign was a huge mistake that hurt her with many constituents.
As for Graves, Frank said the businessman proved to be a solid candidate last year. Frank expects Graves will likely be in even better shape in a second contest, with a better organized and better financed campaign.
Bachmann has clearly been focused more closely on her district in recent months, Frank said, but with Graves as her opponent, that might not be enough.
"I was just telling a class yesterday, and I know it's a generality, but generally all things being fairly equal the best candidate wins," Frank said. "And Congresswoman Bachmann has been the best candidate in the past, but I think that she's met her match. I think Graves is going to be a very formidable candidate."
In announcing his campaign so early, Graves will have more time to raise money and meet voters. In his first campaign against Bachmann, Graves had only about seven months to sell his message. This time, he will have close to 19 months.